The Film: Joysticks
The Principles: Starring Joe Don Baker, Leif Green, Scott McGinnis, Jim Greenleaf, Jon Gries and John Diehl. Produced and Directed by Greydon Clark.
The Premise: A powerful businessman dedicates all his time and energy into shutting down a local video game arcade because his teenage daughter is spending way too much time there. The himbo owner, his flatulent best friend, a four-eyed nerd and a couple of hot babes rally all the other teens to fight back, so they can keep on playing those totally awesome video games.
Is it any good?: Well… it depends on what your definition of good is. Is it a good time? Hell, yes! Is it a fine work of art? Fuck no! This is a film that I (and many other young men of my generation) discovered at the local video store and it has been a so-bad-it’s-good favorite ever since. Yes, even as a teenager I realized that this was a really shitty, yet highly entertaining film. It still is, but over the years it has turned into a beautifully cheesy time capsule of early 80’s T & A trash-comedy.
The plot concerns the exploits of a studly video game arcade owner named Jefferson Bailey (Scott McGinnis from Making the Grade), who is threatened by a wealthy local businessman named Joseph Rutter (Joe Don Baker) into closing his establishment because his daughter frequents it often and he finds the atmosphere unseemly. Sure there’s the occasional game of strip video that results in a topless girl or two and a periodic fart from the resident “slob” McDorfus (Jim Greenleaf in another shameless fat guy role), but for the most part it’s all about playing those totally awesome video games. If you grew up during this era, seeing arcade classics like Space Invaders, Defender, Pole Position, Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man, Satan’s Hollow, Battle Zone, Galaga, Millipede, Star Castle and Joust is a great nostalgia rush, as well as the fantastic 80’s style of clothing, music and attitude that is captured here.
When Bailey and McDorfus throw an all-night video game pajama party, the shit really hits the fan! An emergency city council meeting is held to hear both sides. It’s decided in classic eighties sex comedy tradition to hold a competition that determines the fate of the arcade between McDorfus (who happens to be a brilliant video game player when he isn’t farting and eating) and King Vidiot (Jon Gries from Napoleon Dynamite playing a blue-haired punk rocker). They square off over a game of Super Pac Man and you can just guess what happens.
The most outrageous thing in this movie is the appearance of Joe Don Baker from Walking Tall fame as the mean old jerk who wants to stop the kids from having fun. You almost half expect him to walk into the arcade with a giant piece of wood in his hand and start smashing the games and the kids into pieces, but alas this sequence only exists in my mind.
Oh yeah, the film was directed by B-movie madman Greydon Clark who gave us the amazing Satan’s Cheerleaders and the insane alien-horror trashterpiece, Without Warning. He also teamed up with Joe Don Baker in a crime flick called Final Justice where he plays a pissed-off southern Sheriff after some cold-blooded killers hiding out in Mexico that he must escort back to Italy. It’s nuts!
Is it worth a look?: This is a pizza-party classic that is best served amongst the company of friends and a case of beer. If you like vintage arcade games, crass humor, blatant nudity, soft-core sex montages and tons of fart jokes (including one joke where a fart is somehow used to seduce Joe Don Baker’s wife !?) than this is the movie you’ve been waiting your entire life for, so you better get on it.
Random anecdotes: A gobbling Pac Man is often used as a wipe to transition from one scene to another and the opening credits sequence features an incredible theme song titled, “Totally Awesome Video Games” that is so amazing I had to share it with you all:
Cinematic soul mates: Animal House, King Frat, Caddyshack, Used Cars, Hot Dog… The Movie, Hamburger: The Motion Picture, Screwballs, Loose Screws and Police Academy.
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