Yes, if you must know, Judge David Johnson did attend private school with Phoebe Cates. Not the Phoebe Cates you're thinking of though.
You won't believe what goes on and what comes off!
Universal delved into their vault a coughed up this bizarre '80s teen sex comedy. Starring Matthew Modine and Phoebe Cates and featuring buckets of nudity, Private School has the makings to be a genre classic, but does it make the grade?
Facts of the Case
I'll do my best to sum up what little plot there is. There are two abutting private schools: the girls-only Cherryvale Academy (har!), and the boys-only Freemount Academy (har! x2). Chris (Cates) and Jim (Modine) attend their respective schools, discovering the thrills and anxieties associated with teen romance. Their story is the main plot of the film—and by story I'm talking about the decision to bid their virginity farewell in each other's arms. Peripheral to this is a random assortment of Teen Hijinx with horny guys working ridiculously hard to catch a glimpse of bare breasts. And there's your movie.
Private School makes zero sense and is not funny, yet I was drawn to it precisely because of its surreal nature. It wouldn't be an '80s trash teen comedy if it made sense, and I am here to tell you that there are not many films I've seen that are incoherent as Private School. Culturally, the film hasn't aged well. Girls are merely objects for creepy, boner-driven men to leer at (Bubba, the token fat guy loses all self-control when a female nipple is in the vicinity, and it's an awkward sight, lending it self more to America's Most Wanted than a theatrical comedy)…and there is plenty of leering. For a sex comedy, the sex is minimal—comprised mainly of Ron and Chris expressing their carnal love for each other on a beach—but the flesh quotient is off the charts. Betsy Russell receives the gold star for running around with the fewest garments, and takes part in that ludicrous horseback riding sequence, a scene I'm sure she is proud of to this day. With that is the usual cornucopia of showers and locker rooms and scantily-clad-wandering-around-in-the-dorm-halls to earn the film its R-rating.
The film is so random…just a string of gags tied very, very loosely together with Jim and Chris's sexual saga.
So here is how I think the production meeting for Private School went down:
PRODUCER A: Okay, we need to get a movie together. What's popular?
PRODUCER B: Action fantasies that take place in space?
PRODUCER C: No way, too expensive.
PRODUCER D: I know! Teen sex comedies!
PRODUCER A: Bingo! Okay, so we're going to make a teen sex comedy. We should probably find a script somewhere.
PRODUCER A: Just kidding! Okay, you know the drill. All of you think of some funny stuff that horny teenagers do. Go ahead, just shout out your ideas.
PRODUCER C: Um, we could have the boys dress up as girls!
PRODUCER D: Good one. They put on dresses and lipstick and sneak into the girl's dorm!
PRODUCER B: Right. And that allows us to film a bunch of girls walking around in their underwear!
PRODUCER A: Do girls actually do that? I mean, walk around hallways in their underwear?
PRODUCER C: Of course they do.
PRODUCER D: What a stupid question.
PRODUCER C: Okay, what else do we want? A shower scene!
PRODUCER B: Oh yeah, you definitely need a shower scene.
PRODUCER A: All in favor of a shower scene say aye.
PRODUCER C: Aye!
PRODUCER B: Aye!
PRODUCER D: Aye!
PRODUCER A: Aye! All opposed? Abstained? Motion carries, we have a shower scene.
PRODUCER B: You know what I've always wanted to see in a movie?
PRODUCER D: Yeah, we know, a monkey smoking a cigar on a unicycle.
PRODUCER B: Yes, but, check this out: topless horseback riding!
PRODUCER C: I love it.
PRODUCER D: Genius!
PRODUCER A: Topless horseback riding it is! But how do we possibly include it in the movie so it makes sense?
PRODUCER B: Let the editor figure that one out. Anyone else have anything?
PRODUCER C: Well, you have to get a couple of guys spying at girls through an open window.
PRODUCER A: Yes, yes and we could have them standing on each other's shoulder and then fall down!
PRODUCER C: Brilliant!
PRODUCER D: Let's get a drunk pedophile wandering around staring at high school girls' butts.
PRODUCER B: Doesn't sound inappropriate to me at all.
PRODUCER C: An awkward condom-buying sequence?
PRODUCER A: Book it!
PRODUCER D: Old people making out?
PRODUCER A: Cha-ching!
PRODUCER B: Flaming horse manure!
PRODUCER A: Of course.
PRODUCER D: And let's get the worst, most annoying music we can find and have it run non-stop during the movie, you know, to cover up the slow parts.
PRODUCER A: I like the way you think!
PRODUCER B: We've got our ideas, how do we put it all together?
PRODUCER A: I was thinking…Method Z?
PRODUCER C: What, you mean, write down all these ideas, stick them on the wall, and throw darts at them to determine the order of the scenes?
PRODUCER A: Yep.
PRODUCER C: I'll get the darts!
By the time the credits roll, you're left with a plotless, pointless movie featuring boatloads of female nudity and enough bizarre scenes to possibly make it memorable. Oh, and for you Phoebe Cates fans out there, she does roll around in the sand a bit, but don't expect Fast Times-caliber action. Universal's DVD is only noteworthy for the serviceable 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Mono sound and no extras takes this one out of the running for Disc of the Year.
By all accounts the accused should be expelled, but the court is oddly sympathetic and will only mandate a 30-day suspension.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2007 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.