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“You fargin sneaky bastige!”
Director Amy Heckerling obviously did something right with her first feature film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. For Heckerling’s second feature film, she had almost double the budget that she had before. Considering her second film was a period film, that likely helped. Now it may seem that Johnny Dangerously was a strange choice after her first film captured modern teens so well, but she clearly was tuned into young audiences. Perhaps the producer and studio felt she could carry a period parody and do it in such a way to bring in young audiences. The studio, Twentieth Century Fox, needed a hit after all. And while there were decisions made that date the film, we still find it works. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our 80s Comedy With Coolidge & Heckerling series with Heckerling’s 1984 film Johnny Dangerously.
Is there really much to talk about with Johnny Dangerously? You bet there is!
We talk about the nature of parody films, why some work really well, and why this one may not have stood the test of time with some bigger ones like Airplane! and Blazing Saddles (or even Robin Hood: Men in Tights). All the same, we can’t stop our effusive love for this film. That’s likely because of the impressionable age we saw it. We think this is even more true after talking to our Discord community about it only to find many had never even heard of this film.
The cast is bonkers. Michael Keaton. Joe Piscopo. Marilu Henner (theatre genius!). Peter Boyle. Maureen Stapleton. Griffin Dunne. Dom DeLuise. Danny DeVito. Ray Walston. Dick Butkus. Alan Hale Jr. Neal Israel. Jack Nance. Taylor Negron. Vincent Schiavelli. Richard Dimitri. And they all deliver. Especially Marilu Henner – what a voice! They’re all clearly having fun and even when it’s a big surprise to see someone like Stapleton in the film, it’s clear she’s having a good time.
But what’s with the 30s style eye makeup? Yeah, we get that it’s meant to feel like we’re watching a movie from the era, but it feels a bit strange when watching a color film. All the same, we don’t really care too much about this.
The script is chock full of laugh lines, meta humor, fourth wall breakage, and visual gags, and we laugh at most of them. It’s damn funny! We’re not sure why some people just don’t click with it. When writing constant jokes in a script, though, you have to expect some are going to fall flat. But would it have all worked better with the original ending where Johnny dies?
But wait! There’s more!
But seriously – what’s with the weird bull joke? It took us forever, but while we were recording, we found the source Schlitz Malt Liquor ad campaign on YouTube to help make the joke make more sense. This leads to a whole conversation about the nature of timed jokes vs. timeless ones, and why jokes that are so key to the era may fall completely flat if you don’t know the reference point. (All the same, check out some of the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull commercials in our show notes. They’re bonkers! Kevin Kline even turns up in one as Robin Hood!)
Was this the film that saved Fox from certain bankruptcy at the end of the year? Okay, maybe that’s putting a bit too much on this one film but its box office success certainly was welcome for the studio that had been struggling all year.
Last but not least, what are your feelings about “Weird Al” Yankovic? He’s been around for decades and whether you like his stuff or not, it’s hard to argue that he’s not cranking out some very clever work. His title song in this film is a lot of fun!
We acknowledge that Johnny Dangerously may be a film you need to have seen when it came out and have been of a certain age to really click with it, but if you did, you’re likely are like us and have strong feelings for this film. We have such a great time talking about it and reminiscing. Check it out then tune in! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!
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- Watch this on Amazon, or find other places at JustWatch
- Script Transcript
- Original theatrical trailer
- Original poster artwork
- “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “This Is the Life” music video
- Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull commercials with Kool & the Gang and The Commodores, Rufus Thomas, Don Adams, Kevin Kline as Robin Hood, Richard Roundtree, Gunga Din, The Old West, Marshall Tucker Band, and more (The Teddy Roosevelt one at 2:30 is great!)
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When the movie ends, our conversation begins.
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