AKA Road Trip
AKA Physical Lessons
Directed by Steve Carver
Starring Scott Strader, Christopher Lee, Richard Roundtree
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"Where's your racquets?"
"Oh, I traded them last week for a couple six packs. You can't drink tennis racquets."
Can I say something? Given the title alone, I would have never seen Jocks. Who would? It sounds like gay porn. Also, nobody likes jocks, not even jocks. Maybe drunk cheerleaders, but for the most part, people hate them. The only saving grace it had was a poster that looked like some Lois Ayres aerobics porn flick. Aerobics porn was huge in the late 80's. So yeah, Jocks. Awful title. The movie? Eh. Slightly better.
Jocks boasts more well-known actors than most 80's teen flicks, which were usually crowded up with first-timers and local-yokels working for a free lunch, so it is pretty impressive to see Dracula himself, Christopher Lee, gobbling up the scenery as President White, head-honcho at LA College, a school that hasn't won a single sporting competition in ten years. He blames his mealy-mouthed head coach Bettleborn (exploitation legend RG Armstrong), a nerve-rattled bungler who thinks killing off the tennis team and concentrating on football is the way to go. Only problem is, the tennis team actually has a shot at the championship this year (this year being 1984 - it took awhile to get this one released), and so, the tennis players and their coach (Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree) have the rest of the season to win it all, or get cut out of the budget completely, thereby losing their scholarships.
So what's the problem? I mean, they're winning already, right? Well, you've got to see the motley crew of weirdoes that make up this highly unlikely tennis team. There's the berserk Ripper (Donald Gibb, AKA Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds), your garden variety psychotic, the Felix Unger-esque Jeff (Perry Lang), Andy (Stoney Jackson), a Jheri-curled, guyliner-smeared Prince wannabe, the self-explanatory Tex (Adam Mills), Chito (Trinidad Silva, RIP), a squat, Fred Flinstone-esque Latino, and the ringleader of the this perverse circus, The Kid (Scott Strader), a booze swilling cad. In other words, your usual gang of 80's feebs and fuck-ups.
The boys head to Las Vegas for the championship, where they will ultimately have to face off with their rivals, Arizona State. In time honored teen-com tradition, the ratfinks on the other team convince our heroes to spend a night on the tiles, getting them loaded and bringing them to a gonzo biker bar that they have to fight their way out of. Not surprisingly, they are wrecked the next morning and blow their preliminary matches, causing Coach Shaft to say: "Not only have you let me down, you let yourselves down."
Seriously, that old line? Amazingly enough, it works, and the team rallies, using their oddball personalities to best their opponents. Ripper, for example, threatens to kill the other guy. Andy swishes around. Jeff is so polite, his opponent feels obliged to let him win. Chito keeps hitting his knees and praying to Jesus in Spanish. Etc. Oh, and The Kid distracts his dude by pointing out a busty blonde in the front row, which at least provides us with shots of a busty blonde in the front row.
I will hand it to the writers (Mike Lanahan and David Oas), it's probably not that easy to come up with six workable tennis-related gimmicks. Unfortunately, we're still watching 20 minutes of tennis. 'Funny' tennis or not, it's pretty boring. Thankfully, they follow it up with a strip poker scene. I would surely have been fast asleep on the couch, dreaming of a more interesting movie, if they had not.
There a few minor subplots along the way - The Kid and tennis scout Nicole (future Law and Order star Mariska Hargitay) bat eyelashes at each other, RG Armstrong ends up in a motel room with a pile of prostitutes, there's some bullshit about bets and throwing the match - but all it really leads up to is yet another twenty minutes of tennis in the film's final half-hour. And that's the problem with Jocks. It's a sports movie disguised as a teen sex comedy. And how many sweaty, cellar-dwelling teenage boob-oglers, how many late-night cable surfers, how many diehard fans of Party Camp or Pinball Summer do you think were also interested in sports? Exactly. Jocks, therefore, is pretty much a zilch, a nadir, an eyeball-drying snoozefest of interest only to actual jocks. And tennis jocks, at that. I think Richard Roundtree sums this film up nicely early on when he gathers his young charges and implores them not to do anything too crazy before the big match.
"Listen," he says, "I want you guys to have a mediocre time."
Steve Carver also directed Big Bad Mama (1974), starring Angie Dickinson's breasts, and The Arena (also '74), which features Pam Grier as the first female gladiator in ancient Rome, so it's not like the man has not graced us with lasting exploitation goodness. He just blew it here, is all.
Availability: Jocks is available on DVD from BCI, and as a rental from Netflix.