Thursday, August 23, 2018

Weird '90s Comedy Trilogy #1: "The Stöned Age"

*As always, I write these articles assuming that you've seen the movie, so expect SPOILERS.
This is the first article in my weird comedy trilogy of ‘94-’95 series: The Stöned Age, Glory Daze, and The Jerky Boys. The main connection among these three movies is that I love them, even though they are typically regarded as critical and commercial failures. There is a bit of a following for each of them, however, mostly for The Stöned Age. There’s also the connection of them coming out within two years of each other. The filmmakers of each film are the most logical connection. James Melkonian co-wrote and directed The Stöned Age and The Jerky Boys. And Rich Wilkes co-wrote The Stöned Age and The Jerky Boys, and he wrote and directed Glory Daze. It wasn’t until years later that I noticed this connection. So I decided to write about each of these lesser known comedies).

The makers of the DVD couldn't be bothered with an umlaut...or a "The," apparently.

“Better than Dazed and Confused.”

That hilarious claim is at the top of the DVD case for this film, and it’s probably why most people rented this movie to begin with. I’m pretty sure the studio took the ‘70s angle and wanted to ride the coattails of Dazed and Confused. I suppose there are slight similarities beyond the ‘70s setting, but overall these are very different movies. I think Dazed is the better movie, but I’ve rewatched this one many more times. (Melkonian even disputes the “better than” claim in the commentary [yes, I listened to the commentary].) It’s hard to explain why.

It’s not the story, which is threadbare: Burnouts Joe and Hubbs try to get laid. It’s actually a bit deeper than that, and there is an attempt to say something about the sexist culture it is both celebrating and condemning. But it’s the characters, dialogue, and weirdness that keeps me coming back.

First of all, I actually like Joe and Hubbs, even though Hubbs is definitely a dick. Joe is the likable dude who has goals beyond getting high and laid. But Hubbs is also likable because he’s a funny asshole. His constant outrage cracks me up. He freaks out if he hears “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” because it’s a “pussy song.” And he’s constantly berating Joe because he won’t “jump on the grenade.” Here are a few of my favorite moments/lines:
“Tack, you cack!”
“We're gonna fuck ‘em doggie-style and shit on their parents’ beds!”
“I’m going to have to power this whole bad Oscar myself.”
“There’s a buttload of fine Bettys in there.”
Hubbs upon noticing that Joe doesn't have Jill naked and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper" is playing: “Who put on this pussy shit? What the fuck is going on down here?!”

Tack (played by Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez, but now Clifton Collins, Jr.) is right up there with Hubbs. He’s kind of the villain of the film, but he’s still likable, in a pathetic way. His plan to get the chicks involves stealing a few cases of beer (talls, of course), and showing up at their house with a group of dudes chanting, “Alcohol!” You can’t take a guy like that seriously. Also, he does get screwed over by Joe and Hubbs, so he’s justified in his hatred towards them. Those fuckin’ worms!

I also like that JIll was written as an actual character rather than a sex object. Lanie is given a few moments, but overall she’s treated as an object, both by other characters and the film itself (the close-up on her breasts while choral music plays comes to mind…) JIll, on the other hand, is meant to be the opposite. No one wants to sleep with her, but they will if they can’t have Lanie. Only Joe finally realizes that it’s her personality that makes her desirable. She functions as a bit of a proxy for the audience, as well, calling Joe and Hubbs out for all their bullshit.

There are plenty of other minor characters I found amusing, but it’s just the way everyone talks in this movie that keeps me coming back. Even though a lot of it is a bit ridiculous, it’s also oddly realistic. The nicknames are phrases rang true to me. It makes sense to me for someone to be known not by their own name, but as someone’s brother. I even still quote this movie from time to time. I say, “Just some dude” anytime someone asks me who someone is. And you’d be surprised how often it makes sense to say, “I guess I’m going to have to power this bad Oscar by myself.”

The last aspect that sticks with me is the weirdness of the film. I love their devotion to Ox 45, specifically talls. And sure, this comes across as a Dazed and Confused ripoff, but did Dazed have a 2001 sequence featuring a big, gnarly eyeball? The eyeball makes multiple appearances and serves as a kind of overseer of Joe, urging him to be more than just some dude.

“There’s got to be more to life than driving around Torrance trying to get drunk, stoned, and laid.”

Joe’s revelation at the end to be more than just a dude proves that this is far from a brainless sex comedy. It can be enjoyed as a mindless comedy, sure, but there is a message to the film. The main point I took away from it was to stay away from herd mentality, even if the herd is just two people. Joe learns by the end that he doesn’t have to go for Lanie just because she’s hot and everyone else would do it. Perhaps more importantly, he realizes he doesn’t have to be Hubbs’s bitch anymore. It’s not that they are not really friends; it’s just that their dynamic needs to change for them to continue to be friends.

Also, as I mentioned above, there is a statement about the treatment of females during the time period, but the shots of Lanie kind of discredit all of that. At least, they try, though. But overall, this is a movie about dudes.

Why do I own this?

The deeper elements make the film rise above other, similar movies, but I own this because I still find it funny. I have always found comedies to be the most rewatchable movies. Comedies are good for background noise when I’m trying to sleep, or doing the dishes, or just being lazy. If I don’t want my brain to function much, a movie like this is perfect to put on. But if I do find myself drawn in, I know I’m going to enjoy it, and I might even notice something new. So I will gladly crack open a tall Ox 45 and watch this movie again.

It's not movie accurate (I doubt there's any official merch out there), but the folks at Cafe Press did a good job, making sure there's an umlaut and adding "TALL" to the bottom.

Random Thoughts

The discrepancies with the title bug me. The official title has an umlaut, the DVD cover does not, and the disc itself just says, “Stoned Age.”

Tack's Chicks was the title for a while, but I think Crump's Brother's Chicks would be more accurate.

By the way, the umlaut definitely changes how you pronounce the title, but it's there as a homage to Blue Öyster Cult.

I don't think I'll ever forget how to make an umlaut on Google Docs ever again after writing about this movie. You may have noticed that I didn’t write the title very much at all. I just didn’t feel like copying and pasting that damn umlaut o over and over.

I have an Ox 45 t-shirt. Others must have one, so I'm not the only one who loves this movie.

Melkonian and Wilkes claim to be drinking beer during the commentary. I believe them.

This film introduced me to two great things: Blue Öyster Cult and Clifton Gonzalez Gonzalez (I still prefer this version of his name to Clifton Collins, Jr.).

Apparently the film was originally going to feature only Zeppelin songs, but thankfully that wasn't possible. I think the BÖC stuff makes the movie more unique.

Anachronisms: Pringles can is clearly from the ‘90s, as is the Sunny D bottle, I don’t think the store Michael's was a nationwide chain at that point, there are clearly non-70s cars in the opening scene, etc. These don’t ruin the movie for me, but I always notice them.

Melkonian claims (I can't tell if he's joking) they were wanting to tell this story through multiple movies but following other characters.

Wilkes hilariously keeps referring to Tack as an Earth elemental. He also keeps jokingly referring to other films ripping this movie off, such as Pulp Fiction, The Phantom Menace, and Billy Madison.

It turns out most of the movie (especially the lingo and nicknames) is taken from actual events from the filmmakers’ lives, most notably the puking under the couch cushion scene. Nice…

I know for most younger people, the cowbell sketch from SNL was their introduction to “(Don't Fear) The Reaper.” But for me, it was this movie.

“Fuck you, you fuckin’ worms!”

Officer Dean's escalating relating lines are great:
“You think I didn't want to taste a beer when I was your age? Hell, they used to call me Dixie Cup Dean.”
“You think I didn't want to drink a bunch of beer and piss in somebody's pool when I was your age? Hell, they used to call me Quick Dick Dean.”
“You think I didn't want to sneak in some girl's house when I was your age? Hell, they used to call me Doggie Door Dean.”

“Don't eat too many hot dogs!”

Snotrag goes in for a handshake when he sees Joe.

This movie is crazy sexist, but also tries to make a statement about that mentality.

“Get naked or shut up!”

Fuckin’ Busey...and his massive upper body strength…

It's very Beavis and Butthead when it comes to dealing with women. Except that it works for Hubbs.

That dude from the jacuzzi house is hilarious. The first time I watched this I thought it was Captain Lou Albano. In hindsight, it looks nothing like him.

I love that a guy is simply known as Crump’s brother.

“What the fuck, damn Hanky? Get us some talls!”

Tack’s plan is brilliant: steal a few cases of beer and a hot chick will have sex with every dude in the group.

“Want some ice for that?”
“NO! No. I'll be fine.”
This is the first time I got the joke of him not wanting ice for his head. I’ve seen this movie at least a dozen times and somehow that one went over my head.

The puke scene and later when the puke spills out from under the couch cushion truly disgusts me. I have a pretty strong stomach, but when it oozes out the side of the couch, it always makes me gag a little. So, good job, filmmakers?

So Lanie is going to give Joe a blow job because his dad used to kick his ass all the time? What an odd transaction.

I've never liked that Jill makes out with Hubbs. It's totally out of character. I suppose it could be seen as payback since Jill thought Joe was getting a blow job from Lanie, though. Okay, Jill, go for it.

So Crump’s brother is going to rape the girls? I mean, he just shows up and starts breaking through the door. What was going to happen once he beat Joe and Hubbs’s asses and was alone with the girls? I prefer Tack’s plan.

“He's going for Tack! He's going to pound his nards!”

The guzzlers get in a line and take turns getting their asses kicked by Jill's dad.

As they point out in the commentary, this is a film of headlocks. I never really thought of it before, but now that they mention it, there are a ton of headlocks in this movie.

A couple of the strangest cameos I can think of: Frankie Avalon and two members of Blue Öyster Cult.

No comments:

Post a Comment