Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gimme an F (1984)

Directed by Paul Justman
Starring Stephen Shellen, John Karlan, Sarah Miles, Karen Lee Kelly
Rated R
Shop for this poster!

"Hey Sissy, when you can piss in a balloon, then you can aim it."

For a movie about rival cheerleaders who descend on a place called Camp Beaverview to do battle, Gimme an F is a terribly boring film. The plot centers around two cheer squads - the Stepford Wives-y Falcons, who win every year, and the Moline Ducks, a gentle-spirited group of girls who dress in classic 60's-era outfits, and act like the 80's never happened. There's a third team in the mix as well - the Demons, who wear bright red lipsticks and racy outfits. They don't really have much to do, but they look pretty cool.

The school/camp is run by the flamboyant Doctor Spirit (John Karlan, perhaps most well known as Tyne Daly's loving husband on Cagney and Lacey). Doctor Spirit dresses like the squarest pimp alive and seems to be perpetually working out some cheerleader-related scam. As the film opens, he is looking to expand his business to foreign markets, so he's brought in a group of Japanese businessman to check the place out. They wander around throughout the movie, silent spectators with spy cameras.

Into this boiling cesspool of boredom enters one Tommy (Stephen Shellen), a young and absurdly intense cheerleading coach at perpetual odds with Doctor Spirit. I'm not sure why, though. I think he may want sleazier outfits or something, because at one point, Doctor Spirit says:"Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. You know that sex has nothing to do with cheerleading."

See the dramatic confrontation below.

Anyway, once Tommy shows up, they have a big show with dancing and acrobats. Tommy dances with this other dude in a twirly number heavy with homoerotic overtones. The film never recovers from this awkward scene; the rest of it's running time appears wholly dedicated to Tommy and his fancy footwork. Aside from his bullshit dancing, there's a mere wisp of a plot that bubbles up here and there, as he takes the Ducks under his wing and trains them in the ancient arts of cheerleader-Fu.
"Let me tell you something, Bucky," he says to Doctor Spirit at one point, "I can turn a tube of toothpaste into a world class cheerleader."

Even without Tommy's help, you already know the Ducks will defeat the Falcons at the climactic cheer-off. It's painfully obvious. I mean, the Ducks are the only ones with ponytails. So he doesn't bother doing much training. He just screams at them a few times, and then breaks into dance. He even does a strip-dance in the shower at one point.

The only scene remotely resembling a teen sex comedy comes halfway in, when the Ducks and the Demons decide to sneak out of camp at night and visit a local bar. Although the bar appears to be filled with regular dudes, the entertainment is yet more guys in tight pants dancing. It's a little confusing, but what the hell, the girls seem to be having a good time. Until Tommy shows up.

Tommy is not just a bore, but a killjoy, as well. He decides it's time for the girls to get back to the camp. Somehow he ends up with a red white and blue dildo in his hand. When he pries one of the girls away from the dude at the bar, dude says, "You gonna zap me with that, or suck it?"

At one point, a dude wearing a cape crashes his motorcycle through the back wall of the dance club/gay disco/whatever it is. That part was pretty good.

The first glimpse of breasts comes when some of the girls are getting ready for the climactic cheer-off. Perhaps sensing that this will be our only chance at any sort of action in this dumb movie, the Japanese businessmen from the beginning swoop in to snap pictures of them.

The last 20 minutes is dedicated to the dance-off. The lead Falcon is distracted by this guy dressed up like Wez from the Road Warrior, so she falls over and blows their score. The Ducks win. Like anybody gives a fuck. Roll credits.

People will tell you that Gimme an F is the worst cheerleader movie ever, and you will scoff, because really, how could a cheerleader movie possibly be bad? And so you will watch it. And then you'll understand what they were talking about. With zero sleaze, the barest minimum of skin, and more scenes of dudes dancing in tight pants than an entire season of Dance Fever, Gimme an F is truly a nadir in teensploitation cinema. It's basic premise was lifted whole-hog sixteen years later for the vastly superior Bring It On series, so if you are truly hungry for a rival cheerleader movie with a dance number every five minutes, seek those out and leave this one to die.

Gimme an F?
You got it.

Availability: Gimme an F is available on VHS.
Buy Gimme an F on Amazon.

-Ken McIntyre


  1. I felt that the whole thing played out like a religious revival vis-a-vis a sortof warped dirty dancingsploitaion drunk gay patriotism.

  2. I'll agree that this is an awful cheerleader movie if you are a straight male, but if you are a gay male or a straight female, it does have LOTS and LOTS of guys dancing around in tight pants. I always wondered what the hell guys were doing dancing onstage at the biker bar/strip club in town? That's ... a very different set of bikers! It kinda feels like the director was trying to do a gay film under cover of doing a cheerleader sploitation film.

    The film also had a lot of general weirdness going down with it. There's a scene where the snooty team trains by jogging around while holding eggs in their mouths. I've never heard of this technique, it sound really dangerous, I'm talking choking on the one hand and salmonella poisoning on the other. (The eggs could have been hard-boiled ... I guess we will never know.)

    IIRC, only had one topless sex scene, that one between the overweight middle aged guy who runs the camp and a considerably younger and sexier camp counselor. It was not sexy at all.

    I saw it on cable and was immediately wondering who the hell made that movie, and who they hell they thought they were making the movie for. Truly weird bit of cinema, but as you said, very dull for a straight male.

    BTW, one of your keywords, is misspelled. It is cheeleaders, should be "cheerleaders".


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