I didn’t sell the kids on this one. So far, I’ve steered them away from the Hughes oeuvre, not because I think his movies were awful, but because I think they’re rather over-rated, especially by my generation (which grew up on them). But I did want to see this one in particular because its got a goofy premise that keeps it from being too pretentious (like, maybe, The Breakfast Club), and I thought the kids would also enjoy seeing the nerdy Anthony Michael Hall (before his jock-turn in Edward Scissorhands), Robert Downy Jr (pre-Iron Man) and a pre-Aliens Bill Paxton.
Also, it’s possibly the ’80s-est movie ever.
The premise is basically Mary Poppins grafted on to a benign teen sex comedy. Gary (Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith, who wisely chose to teach rather than act*) are hard up for female attention so they do what any super-nerd of the day would do: They use their super-powered Commodore 64 (actually a Memotex 512, which I’ve never even heard of) to build a girlfriend. (And, you know, for a boy in the ’80s, Kelly LeBrock is the sort of woman you would build, were you building one.) Said girlfriend then takes them on many adventures to get them to, basically, loosen up and be themselves.
Which was the motto of the day, as it is every day. They get a little life experience, which helps, and then they get a final confrontation with Vernon Wells, who is wearing the exact same clothes and playing the exact same character as he did in Road Warrior. Which was hilarious at the time. It’s still pretty funny because there’s literally no explanation for any of it, and things get really weird when the boys try to recreate their experiment for Robert Downey and Robert Russler’s characters, but end up making a tomahawk or some other deadly missile in the middle of the house.
It’s goofy. And like all of Hughes’ teen stuff it is obsessed with the notions of popularity and “in-groupism” in a way I couldn’t even relate to at the time, much less now. But it barely takes itself seriously beyond a respect for the characters that makes some of the (very light) drama work. Even Paxton, who gets turned, literally, into a typical-80s puppet/animatronic pile-of-crap, is given a degree of respect.
It runs about 90 minutes: Approximately the same length of time Hughes took to write it. But it holds up quite well for what it is. The kids liked it, especially the Flower, who begrudgingly allows that not all ’80s fashion was horrible.
*Not because he’s a bad actor, but because…y’know, Hollywood.