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  Whoopee Boys, The Cushion The Blow
Year: 1986
Director: John Byrum
Stars: Michael O'Keefe, Paul Rodriguez, Denholm Elliott, Lucinda Jenney, Dan O’Herlihy, Stephen Davies, Eddie Deezen, Taylor Negron, Carole Shelley, Andy Bumatai, Marsha Warfield, Elizabeth Arlen, Karen A. Smythe, Joe Spinell, Robert Gwaltney, Gregg Germann
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jake Bateman (Michael O'Keefe) and Barney Benar (Paul Rodriguez) decide to join forces and leave New York City after a misunderstanding with trying to scam the public separately ended up with them knocking over a police officer. Their bright idea is to transport a car to California, which they do by threatening to eat the secretary to that car company's goldfish, and soon they are on their way, pausing to use hotel swimming pools to attend to their ablutions in. Before long they have arrived, and as luck would have it appear at a swanky party because they figure the rich people are the best to hang out with, where they meet Olivia (Lucinda Jenney), who really needs to get married.

The Whoopee Boys had an interesting pedigree; while obviously part of the decade-long run of American comedies that attempted to live up to the high bar set by benchmark Animal House, it was actually the brainchild of the screenwriters of Revenge of the Nerds, a hit not on the National Lampoon scale, but big enough to impress the money men. Hence they funded this, which faltered and more or less stopped the writers' careers in their tracks, unless they wanted to pen more Nerds scripts that was. The problem was that it had no real high concept as their success had, indeed it was pretty difficult to summarise the storyline of this one with any degree of succinctness.

Let's give it a go: Jake and Barney meet Olivia, and she runs a failing orphanage which needs a mighty injection of cash from her late father's inheritance, but to secure that money she must be married first. The trouble being all her suitors are rich bastards only out to increase their already substantial bank accounts with Olivia's inheritance, and not spend it on her school, rich bastard number one being the oddly-named Strobe (Stephen Davies, who really should have had a better career on this evidence). He has been harassing her for a while now, but when Jake offers to help around the school with a view to romancing her, she appreciates him trying to help, but it's futile.

Or so she believes (no, we're not out of plot yet), since Jake cannot pass as a wealthy upper crust type, so in an unlikely development (you'll get used to those here) he and Barney head off to a school of etiquette to be taught the correct way to eat at a function or, I dunno, play croquet or whatever you got in these slobs versus snobs efforts. The tutor (British stage actress Carole Shelley) of a very motley bunch (including Hawaiian comedian Andy Bumatai as an Indian stereotype and Eddie Deezen as Eddie Deezen) can only get our heroes so far, so her cohort Denholm Elliott takes them under his wing as a member of an exclusive secret society of what seem to be posh conmen. He hones their scamming to a fine point, so they can bluff their way through a society gathering and Jake can finally get the girl.

Got that? There are Ingmar Bergman films that have simpler synopses, but what mattered were the jokes, and with two montages in the first ten minutes, you would be well aware these were eighties jokes and should be approached with caution. So yes, casual racism and sexism, but nothing quite as problematic as Revenge of the Nerds' most notorious gag, and if you were of a mind to you could be laughing at what was a barrage of bad taste humour fairly often, with Rodriguez (one of a number of standups in this cast) left to riff on various bits that sounded improvised, but may have been scripted, while O'Keefe was thrown a few Caddyshack-esque sops to his character, but was saddled with getting the narrative from A to B. Intermittently the film would throw up something truly bizarre, such as the Amadeus/roast chicken interface or the invented game "crosscourts" which the goodies have to play against the baddies, but perhaps the oddest thing was the director, John Byrum. This was his last theatrical feature: the others were Inserts, Heart Beat and The Razor's Edge remake. Beat that for a resumé. Music by Udi Harpaz and Jack Nitszche.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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