Awhile back, I wrote about the three television shows I was pretty sure I had made up inside my head. The kinds of shows that feel like remembered childhood fever dreams until you meet someone else who was just as obsessed. But I have just as many of these misty/trippy memories about movies I swear used to be on TV and available at the local video store – even though now I can barely find anyone who’s heard of them. Recently, some friends and I were talking about how weird it is that as kids, we would rent the same movie every weekend instead of just buying a copy. I even remember renting movies for sleepovers with my friends, watching them once and then watching them again immediately after, not just unironically, but with zero acknowledgment that this was strange behavior. So, tell me, do these exist?
If you do know this movie, you’re most likely something of a passionate devotee. To people like us, it’s epically, historically, fantastically famous. But somehow, someway, so many others have never experienced the glory. There’s a magical combination of late ’80s elements at work in this emotionally-wrought-but-family-friendly Fred Savage vehicle. Our protagonists are three kids – Fred Savage, his seemingly-but-not-explicitly autistic younger brother who hasn’t spoken since the drowning of his twin sister and a spunky street-smart vagabond hottie played by none other than Jenny Lewis, ’80s tween princess and present day hipster chanteuse. Already, I’m hooked. And did I mention they’re all road trip-hitchhiking to California? And that the autistic brother is a non-evil genius at video games?! And that they’re traveling for him to compete in a video game competition in order to prove he doesn’t need to be locked away in an institution? COULD I MAKE SOMETHING LIKE THIS UP? Fun fact, this movie was the world premiere of the “Super Mario Brothers 3″ game. And the German title is “Joy-Stick Heroes” (is it even worth saying that it’s insane this isn’t someone’s band name?). And lastly, it’s because of this movie that I feel I have an invaluable and innate understanding of the city Reno.
She’s Out of Control
I was absolutely obsessed with this movie when I was little, mostly because the entire premise is based around an awesome makeover. There’s really not much more to it than that. Katie, 15, has dressed frumpily her entire life: thick glasses, braces, the requisite ponytail. When her strict father – played by, ahem, TONY DANZA! – goes away on a business trip, Katie gets a head-to-toe makeover courtesy of his hip fiancee (interestingly played by the mom from 7th Heaven). I’m not going to keep you in suspense. Here it is:
Have you ever seen anyone more perfectly encapsulate frothy ’80s angelic dream girl? Is it any wonder why I wanted to devote my life to looking like her? I’m having pangs in my heart just looking at her right now. So, Dad comes home and finds that every single boy in the world wants to date Katie. Again, we’re dealing with some major wish-fulfillment appeal here. He, of course, goes bananas – Tony Danza at his blustering reddening increasingly-psychotic best. And that’s the rest of the movie: Tony Danza trying to deal with the fact that his daughter is dating. Of course, from my elementary school perspective, it was a movie about the prettiest teenage girl ever and all the fun dates she gets to go on. Bonus: her little sister is played by the same groovy chick who plays Nicki Kapowski in “Saved by the Bell”.
It’s insane to me that Rodney Dangerfield is on the poster for this movie instead of the late, great Jonathan Brandis, the true and obvious star of Ladybugs and not to mention of all of our prepubescent dreams. The premise involves Rodney taking over a girls soccer team in order to impress his boss and get a promotion (it makes sense in the movie) but the team is terrible so he creepily recruits his girlfriend’s athletic son to dress up like a girl and help bring the team to victory. Of course, Matthew (now Martha) falls in love with one of his teammates – who happens to be the boss’s daughter and don’t forget thinks her new friend is a girl, not a boy. Cue what essentially feels like a 90-minute version of one of those “I’m frantically changing back and forth from a boy to a girl and occasionally wearing the wig at the wrong time as a result” scenes made famous in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Every Secret Identity Movie That Exists. But for some reason, Ladybugs rocks anyway. There’s a distinctly adult tinge to it – it’s Rodney Dangerfield we’re talking about, not to mention his sassy sidekick Jackee – and the premise makes for legitimately charming teenage hijinks along with a delicate sprinkling of sweet moments. Plus, somehow Jonathan Brandis manages to look hot in both male and female form.
These are the haunted images swirling around inside my brain when I close my eyes at night. What are yours?