Nerdy Eugene (Leif Green) is on his way to his first day at work, as he has a new job at River City's local games arcade and wishes to make a good impression with his boss, Jeff (Scott McGinnis). However, on his drive there he is interrupted by two young ladies who promise to have sex with him, which gets him very excited as he cannot believe his luck, but as he gets out of his car and into theirs, what he does not know is they have been told by Jeff to play a practical joke on him because he wants to see a Polaroid photo of Eugene without his trousers. This is what he gets, and his latest employee is humiliated, but there will be bigger fish to fry when the arcade is in danger...
I'm pretty sure that if the above scenario had occurred in real life, the arcade's peril would be down to Jeff facing an industrial tribunal about abusing his position with his staff, but this was an eighties sex comedy and therefore such scenarios seeing characters parted from their clothes was par for the course. The actual villain was not Jeff, he was one of those blandly handsome alpha males you would get in material like this as the lead, but not as interesting as those with more personality, such as Eugene or the slobbish gaming obsessive Dorfus (Jim Greenleaf), who took the major share of the bits of business offered them by the script that continually aimed for the lowest common denominator.
And occasionally missed even that, as there were infrequent scenes here that gave one pause: witness Eugene and Dorfus breaking into the bedroom of their antagonist and finding his sleeping wife, who Dorfus encourages the reluctant Eugene to climb on top of and have sex with, which would be classified rape in many, if not all countries. The fact that she in her sleepy state starts groping the nerd is little excuse. But for the most part, Joysticks, like so many of their ilk, was purely an excuse to laugh at juvenile gags and ogle young women with their tops off, the novelty being that director Greydon Clark, never one to pass up an opportunity to cash in, based this around arcade games.
You know those nineteen-fifties rock 'n' roll movies where the music was accused of bringing the youth of today into disrepute until said youth managed to persuade their square parents that it was all wholesome fun? That was this effort only with the tunes replaced with the games cabinets, and was true enough that gaming has weathered its moral panics over the decades, though that was more thanks to violent content in them than their power to turn innocent kids into zombies glued to a screen. Everyone here was very animated while playing, to emphasise the amusement value, take the blue-haired punk Vidiot (manic Jon Gries) who has his coterie of punkettes, he lives for these games, though may have unintentionally represented the worst fears of the older generation about who was attracted to them.
The bad guy here was a slumming Joe Don Baker, playing the millionaire who wants to close the arcade simply because he doesn't like his Valley Girl daughter (Corinne Bohrer, going above and beyond the call of duty in her dedication to character) spending so much time there. He regards it as a den of iniquity (well, there are those topless women to be taken into consideration - playing strip video games, if you can believe such a thing), and Jeff must launch a counter-attack in the form of a gaming duel, where both participants play Midway games (Clark made a deal with them for product placement) to the... okay, not the death, but to make sure the arcade stays open. One of those games was the universally familiar Pac-Man, which received an inordinate degree of publicity here, including scene transitions, fair enough it was everywhere in the early eighties, though the version they play at the end looks pretty strange. As cash-in flicks went, Joysticks was no better or worse than any other, though the younger viewers who would appreciate this the most (there was a Pac-Man cartoon show on TV) would be excluded by the dodgy content. Check out the lyrics in the theme song (!).