Just One of the Guys(1985) starts out very much like The Sure Thing(also 1985), but is really the intellectual equal and emotional superior of Legally Blonde(2001).
Terry Griffiths(Joyce Hyser), is from an utterly realistic -if slightly dysfunctional-well-to-do Cali family. Since their parents are on vacation, Terry and her uproariously horny 15-yr-old brother Buddy(Billy Jacoby) have the house all to themselves. While Buddy hopes their two-week "vacation" will give him plenty of opportunities to get laid at home, Terry is only concerned with her future career as a journalist. Although her boyfriend Kevin(Leigh McCloskey) is also only interested in the resort-like possibilities of Terry's sans-parents domicile, Terry herself is crushed when her submission for an internship at the local newspaper is rejected by her teacher. It seems that her work is just not taken seriously because all the men around her, including her sexist male teachers(!) see her only as eye candy (it is this theme that matches, or betters, Legally Blonde for some honest feminist values.)
So, with the aid of her disbelieving and sarcastic brother, Terry hatches a plan to assume an identity as a boy and resubmit the same essay at another school. Satisfyingly, we see that her work was rejected for the right reasons, allowing the plot to move on to show us "how the other half lives", with hilarious results.
Without a doubt, Billy Jacoby walks away with this picture (steals every scene) as Buddy. It's a tough ask to make a horny teen seem actually adorable, but Dennis Feldman & Jeff Franklin's screenplay pulls off just that.
"What are the odds of this being a homeless nymphomaniac?" muses Buddy when their doorbell rings. He also doesn't mind making a scene in public: "The clock is ticking; I have to get jamming! ...Don't get me wrong, I've had lots of sex. It's just that now I'd like to try it with a partner", he blithers.
Of course, the only reason this is still cute is because even the most unsuspecting girls are quite capable of fending him off. He even lets young Linda(Stacy Blythe) get up and leave once she catches on that the "algebra" was just Buddy's ruse. His really hilarious dusting attempts before she arrived were basically a cheap Vegas act! But in an impressive show of brotherly protectiveness, he despises his sister's "Mr Wonderful" boyfriend.
"What a waste of a sports car", he drones as he finally opens the front door and checks out Kevin's ride. "What took you so long?" demands the boyfriend. "I knew it was you" comes Buddy's quick retort.
In the scene where he's trying to both "molest" Linda while also tolerating Kevin's demands to know where Terry is (he/she's out on a double date as "research"), Buddy offers the considerably older boyfriend $5 to go see a movie. This has become my "secret" favourite scene in this flick.
He pursues the bribe: "OK, if I give you 10 bucks, would you go wait in your car?", but Kevin just won't leave. So Buddy invents a semi-plausible reason for his sister's absence: he claims she ran away to a cult she saw on 60_Mins. Much later, when Kevin barges in looking for Terry again, Buddy claims "it's that darn cult again, they have her brainwashed....wanna split her records?". Hahaha, Buddy's just such a classic smartass.
Of course, all is not well with Terry and Mr Wonderful. Terry has sworn her brother to secrecy about her new identity at the other school, because amongst other things AS A BOY, she has to tough it out in the boys' locker room, handing out towels to the naked boys. She is very, very good as she deliberately tries to keep her eye at face level with all the boys except two. One of them is a boy she loathes, Greg Toland (played by the ubiquitous 1980s bully, William Zabka), while the other is a boy she likes, Rick Moorehouse (OH -urgh, Clayton Rohner, in a terrible rendition of a supposed James Brown fan).
The other supporting actors are mostly pretty good. Denise(Toni Hudson), Terry's best friend and the only other person in on her secret, turns in a familiar, sisterly performance. The politics between the two girls are just right. As Denise agrees to become Terry's date for the prom, she admits, "Look how low I've sunk! And you know, the truth is, you're the best date I've had in weeks". We're sure she's quite correct, because this flick is replete with teen weirdos, all boys.
One is Harold "Reptile" Sherpico(Stuart Charno), who's completely asocial towards humans but sweet to reptiles; while Willie(Arye Gross) and Phil(Robert Fieldsteel) are a pair of overripe underachievers pretending to be aliens. Their portrayals are too knowing, and so a bit off-kilter. Oh, the prom band sucks big time '80s. Brrrr.
And now I have to explain why I think Clayton Rohner is so unlikable in this: he is far too swaggering, with an unexplainable air of self-satisfied sleaze for a nerd (sign of a really bad actor). He also has no soul for a supposed James Brown fan. In other words, he's a complete fake. Worse, Rohner's throwback macho look follows him onto every movie he's made since, including his casting as an appropriately sleazy husband in Where's Marlowe(1999). He really seems to actually be the swaggering jerk for real that Zabka only acts. So I found it distressing that the otherwise clever Terry buys Rohner's awful act.
Sigh. The fault is not in the writing: had they cast someone more honest and less sleazy as Rick, Terry's character might conceivably like him more than her patently still interested boyfriend. Thank goodness Buddy's around to rescue our spirits.
All in all a much more honest, not so over-developed (ie believable!) and more economical lesson than Legally Blonde.
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