The 80’s teen comedy. Take the R-rated ones off the table. Then ask anyone who did time in junior high and high school during the decade to name their Top Three favorites from the era. The odds are very high two out of three will be a movie John Hughes either wrote and directed, wrote and produced, or just wrote.
His smart and funny scripts didn’t stick with one clique. A John Hughes movie was a party everyone was invited to. All the sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, dorks, bloods, wastoids, and dickheads saw their lives reflecting back at them in scenes of hilarious highs and heart breaking lows. Having Hughes at the helm brought the teen comedy some respect.
Turns out, Hughes wanted more than to just entertain. He hoped to educate his audience on issues of strife and inequality. He was no fool, of course. Hughes knew if not done just right, educational scenes in a teen comedy can come across preachy or too teachy. Either are capable of delivering doses of lethal-level boredom no amount of gratuitous boob shots can bring an audience back from. Putting preachy and teachy together in a teen comedy is guaranteed movie suicide.
Otherwise called “Pulling A Porky’s 2.”
Now for how that phrase became shorthand in the land of Hollywood, we’d need to take a tangent starting at PORKY’S – the first teen comedy featuring a scene involving a character putting his junk someplace funky, simultaneously opening the door and raising the bar on raunchy for every flick in the genre since. It’s not even a debate as to how much a certain pastry based franchise owes its box-office life to PORKY’S.
Naturally, the movie was a huge hit. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes, or even John Holmes for that matter, to deduce producers wanted a sequel. And so two years later writer-director Bob Clark brought back the gang from fictional Angel Beach High School for a follow up. Thus, considering its ‘Next Day‘ concept, the returning cast of PORKY’S 2 holds the dubious distinction as The Oldest Looking Teen Movie High School Seniors this side of the BEACH BLANKET BINGO fluff from the 1960’s.
You’d think Clark would stick to the original’s winning formula and up the ante on the raunchy antics audiences would be back for. Instead, he went in the opposite direction. So far so, he didn’t even bother bringing back Porky, despite the character’s name remaining in the title. Clark wrote a script about the gang defending the school play they’re rehearsing – Shakespeare’s Mid Summer Night’s Dream – against a new villain – the cartoonish Reverend Flavel and his flock.
Replacing the type of “sexy hijinks” scenes that made the first movie a hit, we get the gang rooting for their principal as he goes head to head with Reverend Flavel (Bill Wiley, clearly relishing the role) as the two men – prepare yourself, now – read the salacious parts of plays by Shakespeare agains quotes from the Bible as our high school heroes cheer as if at a football game. No, it’s true. See the scene itself – given a much needed tweak or two by our resident movie manipulator, Olivus Stoney.
Porkys grossed north of $112,000,000 against a budget of just 4 to 5 million.
Porky’s 2: The Next Day, tag priced at 7 million, struggled to scrape up $33,000,000. The sequel proved to be such a damaging burn to the audience, when producers poured practically double the original’s budget into a third movie bringing back bad guy Porky in PORKY’S REVENGE, their attempt at celluloid reconciliation barely brought home the box office bacon of $20,000,000.
That’s how Porky’s 2 – trying to preach and teach in a teen comedy – killed the original’s bright future as a successful franchise. The cautionary tale of Hollywood cautionary tales.
John Hughes was quite aware of the perils of pulling a Porky’s 2 could have on his impending writing and directing debut, SIXTEEN CANDLES. If he intended to include scenes of educational awareness in his teen comedies, Hughes knew infusing such moments would require something akin to being on an almost subliminal level. So, that’s what he set out to do.
One of the best examples is in WEIRD SCIENCE.
An ode to teen-age male wish fulfillment fantasy, Weird Science is John Hughes doing raunchy. Unfortunately it’s PG-13 raunch. Its far-out plot involves two losers – stars Anthony Michael Hall at his geek peak… and the other guy. They build a beautiful woman using cutting edge floppy disk technology, porn magazines, and toy doll. Don’t ask how it works. Besides, when their creation comes to life in the form of smoldering, sexy Kelly LeBrock, things like plot logic tend to take a back seat.
The message put in Weird Science proved Hughes way ahead of his time at identifying a certain form of racial entitlement continuing to permeate society today. Casting Kelly LeBrock, unfortunately for Hughes, meant the message was missed due to the scene stealing sex appeal the actress generated in just her second movie role. It would remain unseen by the viewing public.
Thanks to a new breakthrough in technology here at Tinseltown Takedown, we’re able to bring the subtextual message to the forefront. For the first time, audiences of yesterday & today, can see the message as John Hughes meant for it to be seen.
As always, you’re welcome.