The Scoop: 1988 PG-13, directed by Daniel Goldberg and starring Rebecca De Mornay, Mary Gross, Larry Cedar, and Ken Marshall
Tagline: Sleep tight America. These women carry guns.
Summary Capsule: A tough chick and a bookworm want to become FBI agents. With guns and everything!
Eunice’s Rating: Next them FEmales’ll be wantin’ to do things like vote and work.
Eunice’s Review: I saw The Heat earlier this year, and I’ve read articles and reviews calling it original and that it “broadens” the genre. And, really, that’s not so surprising since you wouldn’t call this particular niche overpopulated. I mean, sure, there’s roughly a billion buddy cop comedies about two opposites learning to pool their individual quirks together to solve the mystery/protect whoever/otherwise stop the bad guys. But women buddy cops have been mostly limited to television. However. The Heat isn’t the first. Not by a long shot.
In 1988 there was little comedy called Feds.
Rebecca De Mornay (post-Risky Business, pre-Hand That Rocks the Cradles) plays Ellie De Witt, a Marine who wants to join the FBI. But first she’ll have to prove herself against a group of other candidates at the training academy. Her roommate is Janis Zuckerman (SNL alum Mary Gross), a woman who eats and breathes law and politics. They’re both excited, in their own ways, even though they’ve been told they’re only there to help meet the equal opportunity quota for women. In fact, from what I can see, they’re the only women in a group of forty candidates.
De Witt is good at the shooting, dealing with people, physical stuff but the law and procedures are all Greek to her. Zuckerman is tops in studying and books, but is crashing and burning in anything practical for a real world life and death situation. You see where this is going right?
While there are several named characters, the only other ones really worth mentioning are Shepard, an elitist snob who’s family has been in the FBI since its inception, and Butz, an awkward nerd and the ladies’ only ally (if nothing else see this for the part where he goes, “Get your hands up!”)
The first part of Feds is a serviceable enough comedy. After getting off to an energetic start De Witt and Zuckerman hit a low when they decide to act like full agents and break several rules almost getting themselves kicked out, De Witt’s failing her exams, and (in what I consider a fairly uncomfortable scene) Zuckerman gets a wake up call that things don’t always go text book. It’s then they actually join forces for real and start becoming friends.
While De Witt is presented as the main character, I’ll argue that Zuckerman is the true main character as she’s the one who develops the most (When Shepard gets his comeuppance I cheer every time). And of course there’s a drunken bar scene, and it’s hilarious.
Feds combines several 80s comedy trends. The buddy cop angle obviously, but the academy setting adds a college underdog flavor (see: Revenge of the Nerds), and the sexual politics brings in the women vs men comedies (Nine to Five, Switch), and the end is like every comedy that involves some kind of war games. And while the overarching plot is them trying to graduate, the feel of the rest of the movie jumps around a lot.
Overall it’s okay with some high points, worth seeing once. But don’t let anyone fool ya, it’s one of the few -and perhaps the first (Someone correct me if I’m wrong here)- female buddy cop movies.
- Truthfully, I’ve never looked at pepperoni pizza the same.
- When Shepard cuffs Zuckerman, the cuffs don’t actually close because her sweater gets in the way.
- What passes for high end fashion in the 80s, yeesh. My goodness, the hair bow
- Actually the missing blankets should’ve been a big deal that would’ve been investigated by several agencies. If this were real and not a minor plot point in a little known comedy.
- Is it just me or does Mary Gross look like a female version of Bronson Pinchot?
- Is It Worth Staying Through the End Credits? You end up finding out where Zuckerman, De Witt, and Butz’s first assignments are.
D Witt: Are you always this uptight?
Zuckerman: Excuse me?
De Witt: Well I mean we’re going to be bunking together the next sixteen weeks. I just wanna know, am I living with a peckerhead or am I living with someone who can be quasi-normal?
Zuckerman: I’m not a peckerhead. I’m quasi-normal.
De Witt: Of course Brent’s gonna make it, he’s been trained for this since he was a sperm!
Zuckerman: Tell him your mother died and you have to wash your hair for the funeral. He’ll respect that.
Zuckerman: Have you ever made love to a woman until she lost consciousness?
Zuckerman: He was kinda of cute… for a sociopath.
Zuckerman: Ellie, I had so much fun tonight. We got drunk, we almost got mugged, I met a sailor with a big fish.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Heat
- My Blue Heaven
- Revenge of the Nerds