What’s With These Dudes in Their Boxer Shorts?

Love on the Big Screen is an 80s music and movies themed novel about a college student whose understanding of love has been shaped by late-eighties romantic comedies. The protagonist Zuke, whose heroes are Say Anything’s Lloyd Dobler and Sixteen Candles’ Farmer Ted, thinks his love life should be like all the John Hughes films he’s seen. It’s not that Zuke looks for a woman with common interests or someone with whom he has a lot to talk about, he just spots the best looking woman he can and tries to get her romantic attention, usually not until after he’s talked about her for six months with his buddies in the dorm rooms.

Painting by Keegan Laycock

With John Cusack’s Dobler as a model, (remember the Keymaster?) Zuke believes in the grand romantic gesture, believes that if he can just remember to be the chivalrous suitor, the sort of man who brushes broken glass out of a date’s way or in a moment of crisis thinks of something as spectacular as putting a boom box over his head, then Zuke knows, everything will be okay. In Michael Anthony Hall’s Farmer Ted, Zuke sees a skinny and un-athletic geek who somehow gets the girl. If that guy can get a woman, why can’t he?

Zuke and his buddies form a sort of secret society of men who pledge allegiance to Cyndi Lauper, wear nothing but monogrammed boxer shorts and medieval helmets, while reporting to one another on the four sacred pursuits: God, knowledge, compassion, and women. From WWF wrestling, (watch out for the Camel Clutch) to Max Headroom, Wacky Wall Walkers, and The Cutting Crew, this is a novel that not only provides a scrapbook to the decade that brought us Bon Jovi and Donkey Kong, it will also cause us to look back and wonder just how much influence all those films might have done to the ways in which we all understand love. Bueller, are you out there?

“Innerspace” Memories

Recently, I made a reference to the movie “Innerspace” in a conversation with one of my co-workers, and she had no idea what I was talking about. I couldn’t believe it. How could anyone escape the 1980s without having seen “Innerspace” at least a dozen times? It seemed to be a Saturday afternoon staple on all the local TV stations where I grew up. Also, it’s an excellent sci-fi/comedy — a difficult balance to strike — directed by the inimitable Joe Dante (“Gremlins”).

innerspace

I remember seeing “Innerspace” in the theater during its original release. I must’ve been about 7 or 8. It was one of those movie-going experiences in my youth that’s been crystallized in my mind. I sometimes forget about what I saw last weekend, but I can still remember going into the auditorium to see “Innerspace” and loving it to pieces as a kid.

The film stars Dennis Quaid as cocky fighter pilot, Tuck Pendleton. Tuck’s volunteered for a top secret project in which he and a submersible pod will be shrunken down to microscopic size and injected in a laboratory rabbit. But during the experiment, an industrial spy named Mr. Igoe (Vernon Wells) tries to steal the hypodermic needle that contains the minutuized pod with Tuck inside. The lead scientist, however, flees Igoe and, before dying of a gunshot wound, injects a hypocondriac grocery store clerk named Jack Putter (Martin Short) with 50ccs of Tuck Pendleton.

What follows is the most unusual buddy movie ever made. While Tuck goes on the adventure of a lifetime within Jack’s circulatory system, Jack’s relentlessly pursued by well-dressed megalomaniac Victor Scrimshaw (Kevin McCarthy). Scrimshaw wants to steal the miniturizition tech from Jack’s body and sell it on the black market as a new type of weapon. Jack, meanwhile, needs to recover a microchip from Scrimshaw that can restore Tuck to normal size. The only person who can help Jack on this caper is Tuck’s estranged girlfriend, a newspaper reporter named Lydia (Meg Ryan).

I should also mention Robert Picardo’s turn as self-styled ladies’ man and weapons dealer, The Cowboy. Picardo always brings his A-game as a character actor, but this role has to be my personal favorite of his. And the scene where Tuck literally rearranges Jack’s face to make him look like The Cowboy is probably the funniest scene in the movie and Joe Dante at his most madcap.

The sci-fi action is first-rate as well. Late in the film, Scrimshaw shrinks Igoe down and injects him in Jack to find Tuck. The battle between Tuck and Igoe in Jack’s stomach has some great practical effects work and a great punchline: “You just digested the bad guy.”

“Innerspace” is an overlooked gem of the 1980s. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, it holds up quite well. And if you’ve never seen it, well, get on that. Getting puzzled looks from people when I make “Innerspace” references is something I hope to make a thing of the past.