Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The 31 Day Movie Challenge - Day 10 - VAN NUY'S BLVD (1979)

- Rated R for nudity, crude sexual humor and some strong language.
- Starring Bill Adler, Cynthia Wood, Dennis Bowen, David Hayward
- Written and Directed by William Sachs
- Running time: 1hr 33min

(The 31 Day Movie Challenge was proposed to me by fellow film critic Jessie Hoheisel (from superawesomemovieblog). We each chose 30 films for each other to review for the month of May. The first film chosen will be from 1970. The second film from 1971... and so on. The last day will be a film from 2000. I accepted the challenge!)

This low, low budget film exploits the cruising that happened on Van Nuys's blvd in the 70's.  I guess it was a pretty big deal back then until the police barricaded the roads at night in 1981.  Writer/Director William Sachs peppers his movie with empty, but charming characters as they drive around Van Nuy's one night, looking for action.  There's Bobby, who leaves a sex starved naked barely legal teen in her bed unsatisfied to cruise the Blvd.  I know, I thought he was an idiot too.  There's also Chooch, a thirty something still trying to re-live out his glory days of drag racing.  Greg is a horny ginger who spots a girl he recognizes from his dreams, and pursues her throughout the evening.  Moon is a tough but hot chick (she was played by a former playmate) who catches Bobby's eye when she challenges him to a drag race.  All the characters meet when they're put in a holding cell for one reason or another.  When they get out, they all go on an adventure together. 

And that's it.  The plot is just them hanging out.  The movie starts out with a title sequence that seemed like it was 10 minutes long as the simultaneous irritating and catchy title track blared on the soundtrack to a montage of vintage cars and hot rods going up and down the Blvd.  After a few minutes of this, me and my friend kept looking at each other laughing, wondering if this was going to be the whole movie.

Then we meet the characters through some amusing situations.  Bobby shags a drive-in waitress in the back of his van, Greg pisses off a guy in a gas station as the two wreck the crap out of each others cars, and Chooch gets harassed by a cop.  Oh yeah, I forgot about the cop.  Yes!  He's a contradicting prick who breaks the law as much as he enforces it.  There's an amusing bit with him left in his underwear handcuffed to the outside of his police car on the beach after he tries to rape a chick.

Yeah, this is pretty tasteless, but that's what I expected out of an R rated low budget comedy.  There is little story structure here as the characters simply just hang out.  When they go to an amusement park and ride a rollercoaster, the director doesn't show them riding this during a musical montage sequence, we actually see them ride the entire 2 minute coaster!  After awhile of them going out to eat, driving around, having sex with random strangers, and dancing in clubs, I began to kind of like the jerks.  And the filmmakers also throw in some raunchy situations that wouldn't be out of place in an American Pie movie (like when Greg sneaks into his dream lover's house, but sneaks into the wrong bed stark naked.  Her parents!)

The actors are mostly amateurs with the exception of David Hayward (who had a critical role in Robert Altman's NASHVILLE).  He's likable as Cheech.  In fact, everyone is likable.  No one is really going to be accused of being good here, but there is a certain endearing charm to their rough-around-the-edges performances.  The direction isn't all that great as Sachs seems to have no style.  But it fits with the rest of the shoestring budget style.

It was infectious in a strange way, but after about an hour of this it begins to drag a bit.  The movie ends up not going anywhere.  I get that it was trying to be like a raunchy version of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, but it just wasn't as polished.  I think the reason why I tolerated it so much was that me and my friend kept making comments and chuckling throughout.  We even have some inside jokes about the flick now that we keep doing.  But if I just watched it alone, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it much at all.  While GRAFFITI had a point, VAN NUY'S struggles to find one.  Actually, scratch that.  It didn't even try to have a point.  Not a bad movie, but if Sachs just tried a tad harder, he could've made a good one.

**1/2 (out of ****)

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