Monday, July 18, 2016

B-Movie Review: 'Fast Food' (1989)

It's a risqué, late '80s teen sex comedy about a burger joint that knowingly sells customers menu offerings tainted with a powerful aphrodisiac - and somehow, Ernest P. Worrell, Traci Lords and Angela from the Sleepaway Camp movies all get caught up in the wackiness. 

By: Jimbo X

In my humble opinion, teen sex comedies are one of the most underappreciated cinematic subgenres out there. Pretty much every no-budget horror, sci-fi and fascistic action movie from the 1980s has been celebrated to some capacity, but for some reason, even the legitimately great "coming of age" pervert movies from the era (dude, The Last American Virgin!) remain all-but-forgotten throwaways from yesteryear. 

The problem, I suppose, is that people tend to think teen sex comedies (henceforward abbreviated as TSCs) run a narrow gauntlet from Porky's to American Pie, with nothing but Z-level straight to late night cable rubbish like Zapped! in-between. To be fair, there really aren't that many superlative TSCs within that narrowly-defined timeframe, but you could say the exact same thing about any of the other popular film genres in the 1980s. Yeah, you had some truly transcendent stuff like Robocop and The Evil Dead, but for every space opera or slasher flick or NRA fantasy that was great independent of being a mere genre offering, you had about 30-to-40 films in the same thematic subset that just flat out sucked. Sure, the TSC canon is glutted with utter crap like Ski School and Fraternity Vacation, but that's not to say there aren't a few semi-solid offerings within the genre

Ultimately, I would lump 1989's Fast Food in with the middle-of-the-road TSCs of the late 1970s and 1980s (it would make a tremendous triple feature with H.O.T.S. and Joysticks, for sure.) Granted, it's not on par with the heavies of the genre (think, Revenge of the Nerds and Summer School), but the Michael A. Simpson-helmed production is certainly way ahead of utter dreck like Hardbodies 2 and Hot Resort. And while the movie doesn't have the strongest plot - or strongest anything, for that matter - it's still worth checking out at least once, if for nothing more than the REALLY eclectic cast. 

We meet the two protagonists of Fast Food - two twenty-something slackers named Auggie and Drew - at your typical late 1980s pool party. You know, the kinds where everybody's playing with blowup dolls and shotgunning beers. Everything is going swimmingly (har-har!), until the college dean shows up to complain about all that damned gambling going on. Unfortunately for Auggie, it probably doesn't help things that the girl he's trying to lay - and maybe even date rape - just so happens to be the dean's daughter

Auggie and Drew "celebrate" their upcoming meeting with the dean by going to a local fast food establishment and picking up two random skeezers. They then take them to the campus research facility(!?!), where students are studying patients with permanent erections. They are shooed out of the building, however, after one of the girls sneaks into the research area and sneaks a peak at a test subject's dong.

At the dean's meeting, it is revealed that the two kids have been enrolled at the college for more than eight years. Among other misdoings, they've been caught scalping football tickets, roasting the rival school's mascot and recording video of the girl's locker room (yet for some reason, they never got charged with criminal theft or felony voyeurism.) Well, rather than expel them, the dean decides to "graduate" them instead. This leaves our dynamic duo feeling all kinds of existential. "Auggie, we've been in college for eight years," Drew says, "we're not qualified to do anything."

Yeah, I think it's safe to say Ernest Becomes the CEO of a Medium-Size Fast Food LLC is one of the weaker entries in the series. 

From there, we're introduced to "Wrangler" Bob Bundy. Portrayed by Jim Varney, he's a ruthless cowboy capitalist who owns a McDonalds-like fast food empire. He has decided that a gas station near the college campus would be the optimal location for a new eatery, which fittingly enough, is introduced in the very next scene.

The filling station is overseen by character actor extraordinaire Michael J. Pollard, who has been in everything from Bonnie and Clyde to Dick Tracy to the old Toxic Crusaders cartoon, and Sam, a tomboy-ish mechanic who promptly turns down Bob's offer to purchase the property. Over a hamburger dinner, Auggie and Drew float up a novel idea: hey, why don't we open up our own gas station-themed restaurant at the location?

Meanwhile, back at the perma-boner research facility, there is an explosion, which causes the older, MILF-ier researcher to get super horny, rip open her blouse and thrust herself upon her nerdy colleague. You'll see why this is a relevant plot point in just a minute.

Auggie looks up some alumni and after he tells an investment banker he is a Kappa Kappa frat member, he secures a loan for the restaurant. Sam almost sells the gas station to Bundy, but our grads intervene at the last second. After Sam visit Bundy at a studio where he's filming a couple of commercials, she rips up their contract and vows to open up an eatery that's way, way more successful than his. And lo, that's our cue for the obligatory Pop's Burger Station redecorating montage.

From there, our college grads get the perma-boner researchers to create a proprietary special sauce - which, as it turns out, is just ketchup and mayonnaise with a dash of chocolate syrup. Meanwhile, Bundy rides on one of those coin-operated mechanical pony attractions they used to have outside of K-Mart back in the day. He twirls his guns a bit and says it may indeed be time to employ a more aggressive approach against his new burger joint competition. 

Bundy visits the new restaurant and calls all of them a bunch of "itty bitty piss-ants liable to be stepped on" and that no matter what, they can't win against him. Then, the new burger place gets a huge order to cater a sorority mixer, and the person ordering the huge shipment of sandwiches is none other than ANGELA BAKER from Sleepaway Camp II and III! In case you were wondering, the actress' real name is Pamela Springsteen, and yes, she is indeed the sister of a certain rock and roll icon who hasn't made any good music since 1984. For real, yo

How bizarre it is to see Angela Baker's trademark "crazy eyes" without a whole bunch of dead teenagers following suit...

Sam and Auggie then have a touching conversation about just how important the success of the business is to her. After all, she tells him, she doesn't have a college degree to fall back on like he does, so she has way more on the line here. Then, Auggie visits the erection research lab and one of the nerds tells him about a potent new aphrodisiac he's invented. Of course, the news goads Auggie into spiking his restaurant's secret sauce with the the love elixir (which is bright green and kind of resembles the zombie juice from Re-Animator.) 

Sam shows up at the sorority party in a dress, looking all lady-like and shit (but she's still comparatively mousy compared to most of the broads in the flick.) For the most part, the soirée is a pretty boring, outdoor banquet type of affair. That is, until Angela eats a tainted burger, gets sex-high and declares she "wants to walk on the wild side.' Now EVERYBODY starts downing the burgers and the party turns into a riotous mosh pit, with the band playing this really great shitty 1980s pop metal and everybody ranting and raving and dancing the way white people dance when they are excited about things. 

Following the obligatory impromptu wet t-shirt contest, Angela seduces one of the nerd researchers and balls him inside a meat locker (she even compliments him on his Batman-branded undies.) Then we learn Sam mixed the sauce-soaked burgers with tequila and now she's ready to jump on Auggie's bones hard. So they do the nasty (off-screen) and then Sam wakes up beside him and HILARIOUSLY thinks Auggie drugged her and date raped her (which, I guess in a roundabout way, HE DID.) Outside, the PG-13 orgy wraps up, with people puking all over the lawn and nursing severe sex hangovers. 

By the next day, word about the "Formula 9" injected burgers has spread like wildfire and now EVERYBODY wants to try the menu. Cue another sped-up montage of customers getting frisky with their French fries, including a knee-slapping segment featuring a divine lightning bolt preventing a nun and priest from getting it on during a picnic. 

Drew and Auggie have an argument about the ethics of selling sex-drug-tainted burgers and since sales at his nearest restaurant are down 86 percent, Bundy says reinforcements are needed in the war against Pop's. So he calls his daughter - ex-porn queen and Supreme Court ruling bait Traci Lords, who is introduced taking a bubble bath - to aid him in his quest to thwart the rival chain.

So Traci waltzes into Pop's the next day and asks for a job, and almost immediately Michael J. Pollard spills the beans about the top secret sauce recipe. After hours, she starts snooping around the restaurant trying to find the formula and ends up ingesting it and getting super horny. She tries to seduce Auggie, but then Sam shows up and has to hide her in an ice box. Of course, Sam finds out she's stuck in the freezer and, naturally, assumes she and Auggie are doing what the kids sometimes refer to as "the nasty." 

Yeah, I bet she knows how to handle meat, all right, heh, heh. But seriously, though, if you own any of the pornos she made before 1986, you are a sex criminal

After declaring "industrial sabotage is what made America great," Bundy calls the FDA and some suits show up at Pop's and shut it down for a litany of violations. Auggie and Drew nearly come to blows, and then Auggie decides to hit the law books, eventually finding a loophole he can exploit to sue the dog shit out of Bundy.

You see, Auggie alleges that Bundy uses artificial ingredients although he markets his consumer foodstuffs as all-natural. (Uh, I'm not really sure that's how counter suits work. Nor do I think simply saying "hey, these guys trying to put us out of business are committing advertising fraud" is enough to get the Food and Drug Administration to drop their severe penalties against Pop's for a completely different - and ultimately, much more severe - consumer safety violation, but whatever.)

Eventually, both cases are dismissed - at the same hearing, somehow - and Bundy tries to buy the sauce straight up from Pop's. After they turn him down (again) he offers one million smackers to anyone who can synthesize the formula for him. Of course, this leads to an all out donnybrook in the courtroom as everybody scuffles over the last remaining bottle of sex sauce; and, as you would imagine, it winds up getting smashed on the floor in slow-motion. As an aside, you have to ask a few questions as to why the mixture exploded on contact with the ground; if it produced a corrosive affect on hardened tile, then what the hell was it doing to the esophaguses and stomachs of the people who ate the love-burgers? 

And Pop's gang happily walks off into the sunset, as an array of commercials for Wrangler Bob's restaurant play beside the end credits. 

Well, on the whole, Fast Food is a pretty lackluster movie. The big problem, obviously, is that it's a PG-13 sex comedy. How are you supposed to make a great sex comedy without being able to show actual nudity or hear the occasional "dick" or "pussy?" It's really the worst kind of tease; you get a lot of double entendres and oblique references to sex, but you never so much as see a hardened nipple anywhere - not even in the obligatory wet t-shirt contest scene. For shame, for shame

The cast does what they can, but nobody really has an opportunity to do too much with their screen time. You can tell Jim Varney totally regrets being in the movie, and at certain points in the film, it's almost like you can sense how worried he is the thing is going to cost him his gig with Disney. Traci Lords is completely throwaway stunt casting, and while it's always fun to see Michael J. Pollard act pervy and weird, he's clearly done better jobs being precisely that in other movies. As for the rest of the cast and crew? The guys who played Auggie and Drew and the gal who played Sam really didn't do anything of note before or since and director Michael A. Simpson (who, again, directed the fuckin' awesome second and third Sleepaway Camp movies) hasn't had a single directorial credit after the Berlin Wall came down. And if you really want to feel your head explode a little on the inside, chew on this: no less than four different people are credited for churning out the screenplay for this sucker.

So, at the end of the day, Fast Food is destined to remain in VHS purgatory. It's not terrible, but it's not good. It feels outdated, but it doesn't really make you feel pangs of nostalgia. Some parts are amusing, but nothing in it can really be called outright "funny," by any stretch. It's neat to see Jim Varney hamming it up in a non-Ernest role (and, to a certain extent, seeing Traci Lords attempt to act), but the novelty wears off fast. 

In that, Fast Food is a movie that more than lives up to its name: it's quick, unrefined, greasy and fairly flavorless (and yeah, it probably isn't good for your health, either.) The thing is, unlike actual fast food - which can be justified for its price and convenience - you can easily scope out even better genre films online for free dollars and fifty-free cents. This one, I am afraid, is only of note for its general obscurity ... and to be frank, it probably deserves to have been forgotten

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