Judge Paul Corupe was a star tennis player in college. True story. Wait, no it's not.
"An erect penis doesn't have a brain!"—Ripper (Don Gibb)
Tennis, anyone? Here's a fairly unlikely scenario for a sex comedy—Jocks splashes typically "zany" teen antics against the backdrop of a college tennis championship where everything's on the line, but nobody seems particularly worried about it. Ransacking the vaults of drive-in favorite Crown International, BCI Eclipse has served up yet another adequate chunk of crude 1980s comedy mayhem that only makes a few unforced errors.
Facts of the Case
When the ragtag racquet squad from L.A. College is invited to the Western Conference championship in Las Vegas, handsome slob The Kid (Scott Strader, The Karate Kid), naïve rich kid Jeff (Perry Lang, Teen Lust), jheri-curled lothario Andy (Stoney Jackson, Roller Boogie), country boy gambler Tex (Adam Mills, Snowballing), fast talking Mexican-American Chito (Trinidad Silva, UHF), and beefy wildman Ripper (Don Gibb, Revenge of the Nerds) arrive in town under the not-so-watchful eye of Coach Williams (Richard Roundtree, Shaft). The boys are out for a good time, playing the gambling tables, picking up girls, and drinking until they pass out, blissfully unaware that the future of the school's tennis program is at risk-athletic director Coach Bettlebom (R.G. Armstrong, Angels Die Hard) and college president White (Christopher Lee, Beat Girl) haven't had a championship in years, and Williams' job is on the chopping block if they can't pull together and beat their snobby rivals at Dallas Tech. Those tricky Texans have other ideas though-they attempt to blackmail The Kid into throwing the final match by placing illegal bets against L.A. College in his name, and threatening to expose him to Coach Williams.
Despite some odd, possibly ill-considered twists on the comfortable boobs-and-beer sex comedy formula, Jocks really isn't that bad of a film. Now, admittedly, tennis isn't a particularly cinematic sport, visually paling in comparison to more time-honored comedy athletic competitions like football or downhill skiing, but director Steve Carver—a graduate of the Roger Corman School of Filmmaking—keeps the film volleying along nicely, never forgetting that the final tennis match is merely a catalyst for the hijinks of The Kid and his boorish brethren rather than the main thrust of the film.
You can't come to a brainless teen sex comedy with anything but low expectations, but most of Jocks' tasteless jokes do clear the net, if just barely. In short order, The Kid slams his car into a beer truck with incredibly delicious results, the team plies teetotaler Jeff with fruity liqueurs when he won't let them borrow his car, a transvestite has a big surprise for Bettlebom (and later, White) when the flustered coach can't keep his hands to himself, and Ripper literally breaks the casino bank when he smashes up slot machines in between matches. The first (of only two?) tennis matches also has a few fun moments as the clearly hungover squad wins not so much on skill as they do on hucksterism—Andy is losing badly until he pretends to be gay and hits on his opponent, throwing him off his game, Tex can only perform when he's got a side bet riding on the outcome, and The Kid has a girlfriend sit in the audience to distract his challenger with cleavage and a few well-placed winks. And yes, sports fans—tennis balls will be eloquently overhand-smashed into the crotches of L.A. College's most unsavory adversaries.
The film's most successful swings at humor owe much to the fine performances of the cast. Familiar faces like Scott Strader, Stoney Jackson, and Mariska Hargitay, who plays The Kid's love interest, certainly put this film in a class above your average teen comedy knock-off, and it's always a treat to see Don Gibb, best known as Ogre in the similar Revenge of the Nerds films, in the role of tennis ball-crushing Ripper. Likewise, Richard Roundtree is pitch-perfect as the humble coach who wants to win, but not at the cost of fun, and Christopher Lee, though he only appears for about 10 minutes total, adds a touch of class to the affair.
Besides a noticeable scarcity of bared female flesh on display—one brief game of strip dice poker is all we get—the film's unusual characterizations are its biggest hindrance. Most teen sex comedy protagonists try to walk a fine line between nerdy and cool to be sympathetic and believable, but these guys are, well, jocks—usually the teasers, rather than the teasees, and they don't do much to sway the audience's allegiance. Part of the problem is those supposedly conniving tennis bastards from Dallas Tech, who really aren't all that bad when you get right down to it. Sure, they toss off some well-worded insults and their final frame-up of The Kid is unethical, to say the least, but they don't really do anything to raise the ire of the viewer or give cause for the team to band together to prove themselves. The threat of losing the school's tennis team—and hence the students' scholarships—is never presented as that much of an obstacle, and I'm sure some of these characters, especially the affluent silver-spoon carrying Jeff, could probably squeak by—it's far from the end of the world. What's really missing from the film is a scene of initial humiliation where Dallas Tech beats L.A. College to an embarrassing pulp on the court and then does something unforgivably heinous, like fill the star player's convertible with horse urine or spell out "LAC SUX" on the tennis court with Mariska Hargitay's panties. There's just not much of a palpable motivation for these guys to finally pull together and outperform their rivals.
Presented in an acceptable 1.78:1 ratio, Jocks looks a little faded, but it's not too bad overall. Sound is a satisfying 2.0 mix that delivers dialogue and the rockin' training montage music clearly. The only extras are a handful of trailers for related Crown International films released by BCI Eclipse.
Is Jocks a good film? No, of course not. Is it fun to watch? As far as these lowbrow movies go, yes. From the dearth of teen sex comedies that hit video store shelves in the mid-1980s, this is one of the more inoffensive entries
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
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