I’m going to try a new type of review here on Mutant Reviewers, an experiment that began with a rather impulsive purchase from Amazon. I was doing a search for the third Meatballs film (which isn’t currently out on DVD, alas) when I came upon a “Too Cool for School Collection.” It was almost too good to be true: 12 so-called cult comedies, mostly from the 80s, for $5.01. Oh, I knew it was bad, even before I learned that they were all Crown International Pictures films (Mystery Science Theater 3000 loves CIP movies, if you need a reference), but how could I resist? Twelve! For five bucks!
And so I thought I’d go through these on a casual basis, and perhaps semi-live blog them instead of doing our typical review format. First up on the docket is the 1987 film Jocks (box office gross: $120,000), which is an interesting title for what is clearly a tennis movie. Are tennis athletes “jocks?” I guess technically, but I would never be afraid of one as a geek in school.
There are a few semi-famous names in Jocks, but the big one that leaped out at me was Sir Christopher Lee. You can never mistake that silky threatening voice, not after he bested Gandalf that one time by a controversial “dual staff” move. Anyway, Lee plays the LA College president who is a little put off that the school’s athletics program is crap and the alumni donations are down (as he exposits to us through the coach, who really shouldn’t be ignorant of such things). Oddly enough, the president focuses on the failing tennis team as a quick path to glory instead of — as the coach suggested — football. So therein lies our premise: Take loser tennis team, make them champs, because everything’s on the line.
Oh, and there’s some screw-up star player that they call “The Kid.” Billy ain’t happy.
The Kid (Scott Strader, Karate Kid’s Eddie) is such a rebel, he doesn’t even wear a seatbelt or sit in the car the correct way. I know we’re going to be just the best of movie friends. He also sports a horrible outfit that includes a collar-less sweatshirt and a tiny pair of shorts over what appears to be boxers. At least his dress keeps me occupied through the action-packed tennis practice, during which the director keeps abruptly cutting between the two hitting (or not) the ball and The Kid’s girlfriend cheering him on.
Despite his drunken slackerness (or perhaps because of it), The Kid seems to have the adoration of good friends. One of his friends, Blonde Aryian Preppie (Jeff), even gives him a tow home when The Kid’s car dies. As his friend uses a piece of frayed rope for this, it ends up exactly as you might expect.
Seeing how the next scene has him in jail, I’m guessing it doesn’t.
So let’s meet the rest of the tennis team. From left to right: Ripper, Chito, and Andy. Wait, is that Michael Jackson? WAIT, is that… it is! In the middle, that’s Trinidad Silva, the turtle guy from UHF! I’ve never seen him in any other role, this is awesome!
As we’ll find out, Ripper is kind of the discount brand of Revenge of the Nerds’ Ogre. That makes sense, because he’s the same actor from Nerds doing the same schtick. He’s still the best thing in this movie, though.
They not only bail him out but tell The Kid that the coach has lifted his suspension so that he can play. The crew pack it up as they head to Las Vegas, because this is the type of movie that doesn’t feel the need to show you how the team got to the playoffs, just that they did. Cut to the chase. I can respect that.
The Kid also pressures Jeff into saving his tuition check so that they can play blackjack. My feeling is that Jeff shouldn’t trust anyone who goes on a rant that he “wrote the book” on gambling without blinking a single time.
And with your obligatory “Welcome to Vegas” montage — along with a rather lame 80s rock song about going on a road trip — the team has arrived for hijinks and some hot, hot, hot tennis action. They meet up with another team member, Tex. I bet you can’t even imagine where he hails from.
Ripper has an altercation at once of the casinos, after which he breaks a baton in two and then tells an old lady trying to grab his coins to, quote, “Beat it! You’re cute but you’re not my type!”
Since the film hasn’t really had any time to establish these characters and let us get to know them (or, heaven forbid, like them), it uses this time in a casino to accomplish that. While everyone is obviously acting as broadly and enthusiastically as possible, it’s not quite working. OK, they’re a wild bunch of tennis jockeys and we’re in for a riotous time. Yawn. Let’s move on. I’m honestly more fascinated by the huge hair on the girls.
It doesn’t take long before The Kid has his meet-cute with Nicole in front of a Pepsi machine. Man, that logo has not changed much in the past 30 years, has it? Nicole karate kicks the machine, which is mixed product placement if I ever saw it.
Anyway, for a team that’s made the playoffs, they goof off a lot during practice. Since the movie decides that we don’t know much about our principal cast (which, y’know, we don’t), the enemy team (Dallas Tech) shows up to watch them and spout off each character’s bio like it was ripped from the back of a GI Joe action figure package. So nice of the movie to provide Cliff’s Notes.
Great terrible line: “Who are those guys?” “They’re history!”
Since Jocks is 89% recycled filler from other movies, the team goes to a cheesy club and dances while getting Jeff drunk with Long Island Ice Teas (no trope left unmined!). I’m just glad to get some one-on-one time with Ripper dancing. He looks like he’s having a great outing, at least.
They leave that party to go to an even scarier party, this one with less neon and more hairy bikers and pole dancers. I might remind you that this is a movie about tennis, but that would be futile. This is a movie about whatever sounded good to the drug-addled brain of the director.
Anyway, the biker party is a ruse by the enemy team to get the good guys trashed so that they can’t play tomorrow. Have I mentioned that one of the bad tennis players is Ace Ventura director Tom Shadyac? Or that this scene ends with a white male oppressor spraying down butch ladies with a fire extinguisher?
Man, I should not watch nonsensical comedies this late at night.
Anyway, all of this partying sends them to the first round of the… 1984 championship in shambles. Wait, 1984 championships? And this film came out in 1987? How long was production on this, anyway?
If you’re on the edge of your seat wondering if LA College wins — they do, mostly because The Kid uses this big-haired beauty to distract the competition and the rest of the team have various tricks that they use to unnerve their opponents. Seriously, how many pounds of hair went into the making of that unfortunate getup?
Jocks is exactly the type of movie that would delight Homer Simpson to no end. It’s full of very 80s slobs-vs-snobs clichés along with base humor and guys getting hit in the groin by tennis balls. So I guess you can enjoy it ironically, but if you do so sincerely then it probably says something bad about your character.
Following the win, Jeff and The Kid go gamble some with that big fat tuition paycheck — and The Kid actually wins, surprisingly enough. He also meets a transvestite (with coconuts in his bra), who is then sicced on the athletic department head to keep him occupied.
This right here is Jocks in a nutshell: Buncha guys doin’ buncha stuff for little to no reason. It’s not particularly hilarious stuff, but it’s not dull either. The good guys are kind of idiots and the bad guys are fairly tame compared to most sports comedies’ villains, so everyone plays their role to the letter but without going above and beyond what’s called for.
It also struggles with toeing the line between being a college sex comedy and a sports comedy without ever committing fully to either. There’s precious little actual tennis in here, which is great for us since what we do see is terrifically boring, but it also makes it hard to care about what’s on the line or create a rich playground for jokes. In my book, any sport where you can’t vocally cheer during a match is not one worth attending.
Anyway, there’s a lot of silly drama leading up to the final match with Dallas Tech, including a fake bet that could get The Kid disqualified, a strip poker game, and the team trying to deal with the athletic director through photographic blackmail. Could have done without some of the images from that last one, yes.
No huge spoiler here: The team wins, scholarships are kept, and the director is embarrassed. The best thing that I can say here is that Jocks doesn’t overstay its welcome with a quick 91-minute runtime. 81 minutes would have been better. Or even 11 minutes. I think you could have gotten the full Jocks experience in 11 minutes if the editor felt particularly driven.