Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oddballs (1984)

Directed by Miklos Lente
Starring Foster Brooks, Donnie Bowes, Konnie Krome
Rated PG
Shop for this poster!

"With this money, I could buy a whole bunch of bricks for you to hit me with."

Foster Brooks loses a card game and ends up with his own summer camp. That's the premise behind this, one of the most clearly deranged films of the entire teen comedy genre. Directed by the man who lensed Screwballs and written by the literary genius behind Troll (but, sadly, not it's soul-obliterating sequel), Oddballs is wrong-headed on almost every level, inappropriate for any age, and almost completely nonsensical. It's the cinematic equivalent of a trauma-induced stupor, a walking head wound of a film that stumbles around as drunkenly as it's over-the-hill lead actor, a pitiable waste of time, energy, and expense that can induce a deep and lasting depression in more sensitive viewers. So, obviously, it's mandatory viewing.

As with anyone that's seen this film, I feel compelled to rattle off it's nearly non-stop litany of comedic abuses. There's the blind bus driver, for example. That's it, the whole joke. There's the 'here's your cabin' scene, where one kid finds a rotting corpse in his bed, and another camper finds a mini Dracula in his trunk. Meanwhile, Camp Bottom Out's new owner, Hardy Bassett (Foster Brooks, doing his drunk uncle routine), is outside, attempting to get a young tyke dressed in cartoon shorts, suspenders, and a pinwheel hat to show him what he's hiding behind his back. Eventually, the kid relents. It's a brick. He hits Foster Brooks in the head with it. The soundtrack goes "Boing!" Again, that's the whole joke.

So, several of the boys decide that it will be their goal at camp this summer to get laid for the first time. Unfortunately, this is an all-boys camp. Luckily, there's a girls' camp, Camp Bountiful, across the lake. Most of the girls are eighteen years old and these fuckers are only twelve, but hey, the movie's called Oddballs, right? Well, what's more odd than sex with minors? There's also the expected subplot: Skinner (Screwballs' own Donnie Bowes) is the evil land developer across the way. We know he's gotta be evil because he's got a sleazy mustache and pictures of Hitler and the Crimson Ghost on the walls of his office. Skinner's looking to cheat Bassett out of his camp so he can pave it over and build a mall. Said mall would be in the middle of the woods, but whatever. Back to the good-natured hijinks.

The pinwheel kid continues to torment Foster Brooks, so he storms out of his barbwire-wrapped cabin with a machine gun and attempts to shoot the kid. However, he slips on a banana peel (the soundtrack goes "Woop-woop-woop, bwang!") and ends up spraying bullets in the sky. One of them hits Mary Poppins, who lands in a heap and says, "That's atrocious!" before storming off. We are still, by the way, only ten minutes into the movie.

Bassett's granddaughter Jennifer (the provocatively named Konnie Krome, from the equally indispensable 80's howler Pink Chaquitas) shows up to help out, offering to be Camp Bottom Out's social director.
"But we have a social director, honey," slurs Mr. Bassett, "Billy Wankey."
"Billy Wankey?" asks Jenn, incredulous. "But he's a convicted child molester!"
"Yep," acknowledges Basset. "And he'll work for free."
"Yes, granddad," she says. "I see your point."

Oddballs has a jarring habit of slipping in an out of it's narrative, dropping all pretense of plot every so often for a series of random gags. Shortly after introducing himself to his campers, Bassett walks back into his cabin to find an ET-ish alien trying to use his phone. He shoos the little green man out the door. "From the looks of you, that wasn't going to be a local call," he says. Next, punker kid Spiz (Andrew Perkins), spies a sign on a door that says "Men". Assuming it's the bathroom, he opens it up to find it jammed with shirtless dudes in bathing suits. So he slams it shut, changes the sign to read "Women", and opens it back up again. And now it's filled with bikini-clad girls. And so on.

Billy Wankey (Anthony Newman) shows up in leatherman gear. He snorts some Amyl Nitrate and launches into a vigorous aerobics routine, has a heart attack, and dies right there, in front of the kids. Bassett runs out to see what's happened. Somebody call me an ambulance!" He demands.
"You're an ambulance!" Scream the kids.
After the corpse has been removed, the campers have lunch at the chow hall, which has skeletons painted on the walls. They feed the kids dog food, and there's supposed to be a 'thanksgiving prayer' from a guy named Mustapha, but he turns out to be a maniac with a sword, who tries to sacrifice a girl in a bathing suit.

"Take what you can kids," says Mustapha, "There's no virgins here."
That bit of nastiness over, the kids commence to eating their dog food and green fuzz.
"Mine's still purring," observes one kid.
"After chow, Nurse Brigette will be administering the antidote," says Laylo Nardeen (Mike MacDonald, not the Doobie Brother), the camp's only counselor.
Nurse Brigitte (Kimberly Brooks, Screwballs, Loose Screws), by the way, has big tits. Huge ones. The kids constantly feign illness and injury to proffer her attention. For whatever reason, this seems to always include a ball-check, so you can understand the repeat business.

Anyway, all this rampant stupidity starts to blend together after awhile. The boys raid the girls camp and change their aerobics tape to old-timey stripper-jazz so that they'll exercise more suggestively.

A martial arts instructor gets hired. He looks like Bruce Lee and all his lines are dubbed. Laylo gives a bunch of the kids Magnum PI mustaches and takes them to a singles bar, where they proceed to get loaded and hit on chicks.

And there is, of course, a game-changing dance, where scurrilous plots are revealed. In this case, Skinner discusses his plans to get Jennifer drunk and marry her off to his douchebag son, then kill Bassett and inherit the camp, so they can pave it over and build the mall. I think that was the plan, anyway. He is undone when a microphone is unwittingly turned on by a camper at just the right moment, so that everyone in the party can hear him. In the ramshackle spirit of this very special film, there's a close-up of the microphone while Skinner spews his evil plan. The microphone is, very clearly, turned off.

Despite this treachery, Basset just sells the fuckin' camp to Skinner anyway. Everybody mopes. The next morning, Basset gets breakfast, and when he looks down at his plate, he notices that his eggs and sausage are arranged to look like a face. Bassett stares at his face-breakfast and says, "Ok, you've convinced me. I won't sell the camp." I am unsure whether he says this to the campers, or his eggs.

Everybody at camp does that creepy Wicker Man dance. Skinner's son plots to kidnap Jennifer. We race to a suitably idiotic climax. Hint: there's a car chase, and a giant cake.

There is no nudity in Oddballs, but I don't think that's the result of taste and/or decorum, I just think they forgot, amidst all this fucking bedlam, to take somebody's shirt off. Wisely, director Miklos Lente did not direct another film after this, but quietly spent the next sixteen years shooting various Canadian television shows before retiring in 2000. Foster Brooks hiccupped onwards, but this remains his sole starring role. The "Lovable Lush" died of natural causes in 2001, dry as a bone. Unless you've got a stash of Dean Martin Show and Match Game episodes somewhere, then this is really the only still-circulating place to see the man's lifework in full flower. With the possible exception of Dudley Moore and myself, for real, throughout most of the 90's, Foster Brooks was the preeminent drunk-star of 'em all for decades, his every stumble and mumble a flawless dipsomaniac ballet, and, if that's your bag, you get many, many minutes of it in Oddballs. Many find it hard to believe that Mr. Brooks actually quit drinking in the early 60's, and just played tipsy for laughs for another 40 years, but that's the story. Me, there's just no way I could have gotten through that shoot without a river of whiskey. Aggressively weird and willfully moronic, Oddballs might be the very worst summer camp movie ever made. And, considering its competition (Meatballs III, anyone?), that's saying a mouthful. Hic.

Availability: Oddballs is available in the UK on a region-free PAL DVD from Pegasus Entertainment and on VHS in the US.
Buy Oddballs on Amazon.

Clip: Foster Brooks at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast of Angie Dickinson!

-Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. look what i found



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts with Thumbnails