Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gotcha! (1985): Review

This is another guest review from a friend of the show and the blog, Scott from Toronto. Enjoy.

This nearly forgotten 1985 film is a hybrid of many different genres. Let’s call it a Teen Comedy/Road Movie/Romance/Spy/Action film. It begins with a fun credit sequence, in which university student Jonathan (Anthony Edwards) plays the Gotcha game; essentially a form of campus-wide paintball assassination. It’s a lively way to start a lively film, although it’s a bit strange seeing student walk around with handguns.

Jonathan and his pal Manolo, played by Nick Corrie (now Jsu Garcia), are anxiously awaiting a short European getaway. Edwards plays the nebbish wingman to his charming friend. He handles this role very well, at one point asking a woman who has turned him down “You mean, you’d rather do nothing than go out with me?” to which she replies “Yes”.

We’ve all seen this before in a variety of 80s teen comedies, with the likes of John Cusack or Anthony Michael Hall playing the part of Jonathan. What sets this one apart, however, is that once our principals have relocated to Paris, the film switches gears and genres. Killing time in a café while Manolo is conquering the women of Paris, Jonathan is approached by the mysterious Sasha (Linda Fiorentino), who has some sort of generic ‘behind the Iron Curtain’ accent. After a rather forced montage of Europe vs. America gags, the two take a tumble in bed and Jonathan loses his wirginity. Completely smitten, he agrees to accompany Sasha to Berlin, where she has a job to perform.

Of course, nothing is as it seems and Jonathan is soon swept up in some Cold War intrigue. He is separated from Sasha and ultimately makes his way back to California broke and soaked. He discovers that his troubles have followed him home, and he must sort out whom he can trust as the CIA is causing as many problems as the Russians. Ultimately, we come full circle as some of the skills Jonathan has acquired playing Gotcha come in handy – but it’s all a bit forced.

It’s a lot of goofy fun, with some decent set pieces and a lot of charm. Alex Rocco appears as Jonathan’s long suffering father, who never wanted Jonathan to go to Europe and is more concerned with the state of his Nikon than his son. Although some of the Cold War humor is ham-fisted, there are some truly funny spots, including a punk band obsessed with Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”. The soundtrack is also worth mentioning, as it is a terrific mix of mid-80s pop tunes.

I’ve got to give props to the director, Jeff Kanew. He really knows how to keep the pace going, and while nothing is truly inspired, I’ve seen worse directors have much longer careers. Kanew also directed Edwards in Revenge of the Nerds, so they were one film away from becoming the Scorcese/De Niro of the 80s. I hope to find the time to write a review of his 1983 film, Eddie Macon’s Run in the next little while.

MVT: Anthony Edwards is perfect as the everyman – very charming with terrific comedic timing. He is one of the most underappreciated actors of his generation.

Make or Break: The credit sequence in which we see Edwards stalking people on campus, hiding behind bushes and in a garbage can. This lets the viewer know exactly what sort of film is in store.

Score: 7.5 out of 10. For a mid-80s, Teen Comedy/Road Movie/Romance/Spy/Action, you can do a lot worse. It’s the kind of movie that they just don’t make anymore.

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