Judge Patrick Bromley has been called a lot of things, but "Hardbody" is not one of them.
If you don't know what they are, you don't know what you're missing.
Except you wouldn't be missing much.
Facts of the Case
It's the 1980s, and three middle-aged businessmen are looking to score at a California beach. They've got the expensive pad, they've got the nice car, but they're still striking out. So, they invest the help of surfer/ladies' man Scotty Palmer (Grant Cramer, Killer Klowns From Outer Space) to help them score with the local Hardbodies. Together with his best friend Rags (the always-creepy Courtney Gains, Can't Buy Me Love), the boys set out in search of bikini-clad babes and the sweet '80s rock of girl-band Vixen.
Scotty and Rags return in Hardbodies 2 (only this time they're played by Back to School's Brad Zutaut and Sam Temeles of Locusts, respectively). Somehow, they're both now successful Hollywood actors jetting off to Greece to shoot a teen comedy (self-reflexive!) and get into high jinks with beautiful Greek ladies (like Fabiana Udenio of Summer School) and the local criminal element. James Karen (Return of the Living Dead Part II) also stars as the movie's horny producer.
If an alien race beamed down to planet Earth and demanded to see the single that best represents the '80s sex comedy (theirs is a short list of demands), you might choose Porkys. You would be wrong. You might even say The Last American Virgin, which would make you closer to being correct but in Virgin feelings are genuinely on the line and hearts are genuinely broken and lessons are genuinely learned. That's not what the '80s were about, bro. No, I would likely suggest showing them Hardbodies. And, when I wanted to drive them away and back to their home planet, I would show them Hardbodies 2.
That makes Anchor Bay's new Hardbodies Collection the perfect DVD set for this very particular, very hypothetical alien invasion. Should that day ever come, let's just hope all goes according to plan.
Make no mistake: Hardbodies is a terrible film. Essentially just a Beach Party update for a generation of lower moral standards and greater inability to fight off the demons of horniness, Hardbodies is still totally watchable and entertaining as long as you know what you're in for. I'm not a fan of watching things ironically, largely because I derive little enjoyment from feeling superior to films, but I have to confess laughing more than once at the sheer stupidity and datedness of Hardbodies. Case in point: guest-band Vixen performing a song called "Computer Madness." Come to think of it, you should really watch the movie with the subtitles on so you can see the lyrics to all of the songs in the film. They are glorious.
Just the notion that three lecherous adults (I guess playing the Robert Cummings role) are required as audience conduits into the secret world of beach-going, horny teens is amusing to me. More amusing are the multiple explanations of a slang language that the movie pretends actually exists, even though it doesn't (this is where the film's title comes from). Despite its general sleaziness, there's almost an innocence to aspects of Hardbodies: seeing a naked female is the greatest accomplishment anyone can achieve. Of course, you then quickly realize that it's a couple of middle-aged to downright old men (though Sorrells Pickard is painted as the most decent and likable of the adults, it's still hard to believe that young ladies would be throwing themselves at him—even if he does play the guitar and have great opening lines about manure) trying to bed young girls, you quickly want to shower like you've never showered before. Such is the effect of Hardbodies.
None of this can be said of Hardbodies 2, a clear attempt to capture lightning in a bottle a second time without any acknowledgement that no part of Hardbodies actually qualifies as lightning in a bottle. Sure, the creative team is back (sometimes I think it's funny to misuse the word "creative"; nevertheless, director Mark Griffiths did helm both films), but Hardbodies 2 feels just like what it is: a pale imitation of a movie that worked mostly as a novelty.
There's something almost ambitious about the storytelling in Hardbodies 2, which switches back and forth from a movie-within-a-movie to the regular movie often without any indication of which one you're watching. The effect can be jarring; just when you get invested in a scene, the rug is pulled out from under you as you discover this is just the "movie" being shot.
I'm kidding, of course. You never get invested in a scene.
Whether this dreamlike narrative is intentional or the mark of a complete ineptitude on the part of the filmmakers I cannot say, but the result is an '80s sex comedy unlike other '80s sex comedies. It's also maddening and stupid; though I want to give credit where credit is due, I still can't defend the movie as anything other than dull and forgettable. It's a tamer movie, I would argue, but few people are willing to check out a movie with the words "hard" or "bodies" in the title for the qualities of class and restraint. Raunch is part of your brand, Hardbodies. Don't go dressing you movie up with pretty Greek locales and think that we'll be able to watch you and still look at ourselves in the mirror.
Anchor Bay releases The Hardbodies Collection on a single-sided DVD; both films are presented in their original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and have been enhanced for anamorphic playback. Both films look aged and a little beaten up, with plenty of visible scratches and grain; still, they're bright and colorful and the transfers are basically inoffensive. The mono audio tracks are a bit more problematic, compressing all the dialogue and plentiful (and awesome) music into a single center speaker. The only extra on the set is the original theatrical trailer for the first Hardbodies.
More pop culture artifact than movie, Hardbodies can be a pretty entertaining experience for fans of this very specific, very disreputable genre. Hardbodies 2? Not so much. They're both relics, to be sure, but only Hardbodies 2 will melt your face off.
Hardbodies and Hardbodies 2 are found not guilty and guilty, respectively, making this set a wash.
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