Seen: On my laptop, streamed from netflix instant.
So here's how my Wednesday night went. I got out of work unexpectedly early, came home and took an impromptu nap. I woke up to get ready for my friend's birthday dinner, and on a whim put on She's All That when I noticed it was netflix instant. That movie might be the worst movie ever made, so when I got home from the dinner and wasn't tired at all, I put it back on while I made some art, half-paying attention to it (hence no review today). AND THEN. I was still awake, still in the mood for terrible romantic comedies, and came across Tuff Turf. The title and 1985 timestamp were enough, but then I caught a glimpse of the poster, I mean how the fuck could I say no to that? Thus began a live-tweet odyssey for the ages.
Let's get into it. James Spader plays Morgan, a privileged teen from Connecticut who just can't seem to do anything right, unlike his perfect older brother who's studying to be a lawyer. Morgan wears a leather jacket, he rides a bicycle, he's a NATURAL REBEL. His family moves to California because his dad loses his job or something and he enrolls in public school for the first time, and immediately gets on the bad side of local thug Nick (Paul Mones) and his gang. He also falls for Nick's girlfriend Frankie (Kim Richards), she of the impossibly long hair. They hang out with Robert Downey, Jr and his band, make fun of rich country club people, and dance a lot. James Spader gets beat up in every other scene. It gets super serious about two-thirds of the way in, but don't worry! They get right back to the dancing after maybe a murder is committed? I can't make this shit up.
This movie has no right to be as good as it is, and simultaneously every right to be as awful as it is, if that makes sense. It's a beautiful, terrible paradox. It's part upbeat teen love story, part Rebel Without a Cause (but somehow with more melodrama), part gritty urban action movie, part class satire, and part rock and roll fantasy. None of these elements really fit together, creating a wildly uneven and unsure final product, but damn it all I enjoyed myself immensely. Between the hilarious hairstyles, random dance breaks, unexpected acts of violence against bikes, and unflappable charisma of the Downey/Spader duo, there's a lot to like in Tuff Turf. It's the kind of movie that definitely isn't as cool as it thinks it is, but that makes it all the more adorable.
AND YET at the same time it's actually kind of a good movie anyway? The cast is really good and I loved the music and I sort of cared about the romance and I actually thought the scene where the kids sneak into the country club and pose as snooty rich people is really funny? Oh no, do I like Tuff Turf unironically?! Yup, probably. I mean come on, it's got a baby-faced Robert Downey, Jr drumming shirtless. AND there's a big showdown in an abandoned warehouse that involves James Spader swinging down from a ledge Tarzan-style into the bad guy. Who then tries to beat him up with a conveniently-placed wooden plank with a rusty nail on the end. And apparently Spader wields an axe at some point? I don't actually remember this happening but check out that screencap above, he looks pretty beastly. I guess I'll just have to watch it again!
Tuff Turf. It's a time capsule, it's a love story, it's a surprise. It's got fast cars and jerkwad teenagers and a little of bit of the ol' ultraviolence (helloooo, shirtless towel beating in the locker room). Also a really poorly placed sex-scene (with boobs!). It doesn't get much better than this.
As a movie: 3/5
As entertainment: 4.5/5
Pair This Movie With: Sometimes the tone made me think of Streets of Fire, a movie that's all-around good.