It's the 25th anniversary of this film.
The 1980s were the Golden Age of "coming of age"
comedies. The obscure Mischief wasn't one of the best, but was a fairly
good one, although it did little at the box office and has since fallen
into oblivion. It was a "small" picture. It didn't have the charismatic
star power of Risky Business or Ferris Buehler; it didn't have the zany
raunch of Porky's or Revenge of the Nerds; and it didn't have the
surreal wit of Better Off Dead. Hell, it didn't even have Curtis
Armstrong! But it did have a generosity of spirit and a romantic view of
the 1950s that made it and still makes it enjoyable, if not always
believable. In fact, it is probably more relaxing to watch this film now
than it was in 1985, because our genuine memories of the 1950s have
slipped farther away, and ever more of the period's reality has been
replaced by a romanticized view like the one exhibited in this flick. I
suppose that in another 20 years this view of the 50s will seem more
real than reality.
The basic plot is familiar and forgettable. Our hero,
the average guy, is still a virgin in small town Ohio in 1956, but has
his eye on the hottest girl in school (Kelly Preston). Attaining his
goal seems unlikely, since he's about the size of Spike Lee and still
rides his Schwinn to High School, but he stumbles into a stroke of luck.
A tough, handsome, and cool delinquent from Chicago moves in next door,
and makes our hero's cherry his senior project. It helps that both Kelly
Preston and her best friend have a crush on Mr. Cool, thus enabling a
double date situation, and giving our hero a chance to slip into
Preston's life. As it turns out, the cool guy falls in love with the
other girl, so it's all good. Our hero eventually loses the dream babe,
but by then he has grown up and realized that they aren't right for each
Besides, the dorky chick with a crush on him has had
her braces removed by then, and with the addition of contact lenses ...
Well, you get the idea.
It's not an important film, nor even a very memorable
one, but a pleasant watch.
Some quick thoughts about Mischief.
1. I don't mind watching the past through a rose tint,
but some of the period detail is far too romanticized. Assuming that it
takes place in 1956, every car in this film is new. That's crazy. Why
isn't anyone driving a 1949 Packard or a 1937 Hudson? You could make
similar comments about the houses and stores, all of which seem to have
a fresh coat of paint.
2. The sexual conquests are also romanticized. The
screenwriter was recalling the period of his youth - he would have been
19 when these events took place - but this storyline is the author's
sexual fantasy, not an account of reality. Our wimpy little hero gets
laid too easily. First of all, just about nobody got laid in 1956, not
even the very coolest people. Even by the time I went to high school
(1962-1966), I didn't know anyone who actually got laid with another
high school student. Not even the quarterback. Some of the guys would
sneak off and enlist the services of some more exotic ... er ... fancy
women, but my friends and I never even did that, and neither did most of
the "good" kids. Oh, sure we always carried a rubber in our wallets, but
that was just for show. The very luckiest might get laid on prom night,
but even that was uncommon, and required a long-term dating
relationship. Sometimes a "good girl" turned up pregnant, but it was
really rare. I think there was one in my high school out of 250 senior
girls. And I lived in a big city. The kids in this movie not only lived
ten years earlier, but in small town America to boot. It just isn't
realistic that this clumsy inexperienced kid was soon getting invited
over for a weekend with the hottest girl in school, with her parents out
of town, and that they were actually having intercourse rather than a
substitute activity with no risk of pregnancy. In real life, this guy
would have graduated from high school as a virgin, although he might
have gotten close. He might not have admitted virginity to his friends,
but in his heart he would not have been that ashamed of it. If he was a
real romantic, he'd remember the kisses, the smell of his date's
perfume, the breezes of a summer night, watching snowflakes melt on her
lips on a winter day, and the exhilaration of being in love for the
first time. The actual rumpy-pumpy would come later.
3. The tunes are great. The film features a steady
stream of the very best mid-50s doo-wop rock from Elvis and Buddy Holly
and just about everyone else who was anyone then. If you remember the
era, or even if you just love your oldies station, this score is 45 RPM
4. The characterizations are reasonably complex. Kelly
Preston, although the hottest girl in school, is always friendly with
our hero, even in the beginning when she simply thinks of him as a
klutz. She seems like a nice person even when she reveals how shallow
she is at the end of the film. We sense that she's not mean, and she
doesn't regret her sexual liaison with our hero, but she just isn't in
love with him, and is ready to move on to somebody hotter. The other
three main characters are also multi-dimensional. The only important
character who fails to ring true is the stock teen film antagonist, the
usual rich snooty Marmalard clone who looks down on everyone.
5. Although the film in general doesn't have much
original to say, it does have some moments which brought back vivid
memories for me. The schoolyard dialogue, the slang, the pranks, and the
sexual misinformation included a lot of elements which seemed familiar
to me, and not just because of some post-modern faux memories induced by
other movies, but from memories of things that really happened.
6. The love stories may have been unlikely, but
overall the lead actors and the script did a good job on showing the
nature of male friendships in the 50s. Doug Mckeon did an excellent job in the lead. He had
some talent, but no charisma, so he had kind of a fringe career, the
kind of acting resume that pays the bills, but leaves one short of being
a household name or a recognizable face. McKeon is still acting today,
but his appearances have been sporadic, and I can't recall seeing him in any
of the movies he is supposed to have made in the past few years. Last
year his only credit was a small role in a single episode of House, M.D.
7. Kelly Preston - completely naked - full-frontal -
standing up - in daylight, her face and her body close to perfection.
That alone made the film worth watching.