Thursday, April 23, 2009

Losin' It (1983)

Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring Tom Cruise, Jackie Earle Haley, Shelley Long
Rated R

"I forgot my rubber."
"Did you remember to bring your dick?"

If you were to ask me, in 1982, which member of the Losin' It cast would go on to become spectacularly rich/famous/weird, I would have easily chosen Jackie Earle Haley, who really is the star of this witty little film. Tom Cruise, in comparison, is just a plank of wood. Granted, his aw-shucks virgin is the least interesting character in the entire movie, but still, if Cruise has some level of greatness to him, it is surely not in evidence here. Haley, on the other hand, nearly gulps this film down whole. And he went on to a long and lonely 13-year stretch of unemployment and obscurity. Life's a bitch, man.

Released in the wake of Porky's considerable success, Losin' It also takes place in the warm and fuzzy mid 60's. Three Californian high school kids - Woody (Cruise), Big Dave (Haley) and Spider (John Stockwell) - decide to drive down to Tijuana for the weekend, to drink their faces off and lose their virginity. Trouble brews early and often, however. When one of their other buddies drops out, Big Dave is forced, under protest, to take his conniving younger brother Wimp (John P Navin, Jr.) along.
"We can't take a kid along," Dave whines."I told you, we're going into the mouth of hell."

Wimp is a young capitalist, and wants to go to purchase cheap fireworks to resell to his idiot friends. He bribes Big Dave with a sizable loan, and joins the gang. After school, they all pile into Dave's convertible, and hit the road.

The boys stop at a mom and pop grocery store to shoplift supplies for the trip at exactly the time 'mom' and 'pop' are splitting up. Kathy (Shelley Long) makes off with the store van as her husband Larry (Kale Browne) chases after her. She almost immediately crashes it into the front door, destroying half the store. Determined to get the hell out of town, she hops into the convertible with the boys and demands they take her with them, telling her husband she's going to Tijuana to get a divorce. Since they've just robbed her store, they don't figure they've got much choice in the matter.

The motley crew makes it into Mexico without incident - it's always easier getting in than getting out - and everyone wanders off to their respective fates. Kathy finds the cheapest lawyer she can, Wimp goes off in search of illegal explosives, and our trio of high school heartbreakers visit a lively bar/whorehouse to become men.

After eyeballing their first strip show and clapping along to the bawdy ballads of piano-basher/loudouth/lounge entertainer Johnny Hotrocks ("Bring Your Mother to the Gang Bang"), the fellas meet three attractive chicas who eventually lure them upstairs, where they are greeted by a line of beat-up old whores idly watching porn loops on a Super 8 projector.

But what the hell, the price is right. Everybody picks a girl, and they take off to their respective rooms. While Big Dave (so named for his extra large member, which is clearly outlined in his pants for the duration of the film) nearly burns a hole through his Mexican mistress next door, the ever-sensitive Woody just can't bring himself to do 'it'. Luckily, despite being in the bowels of Tijuana, Woody ends up with an ethical hooker. Sensing that he's not quite ready to lose his virginity to a skinny, middle-aged whore with fried-egg tits, the saint-like prostie actually hands him his money back and sends him on his way.

A depressed Woody shuffles down to the bar, where he attempts to drink away his shame. His now-experienced pals soon join him, as does a frazzled and conflicted Kathy, her dubiously legal divorce papers in hand.
"Let's drink to mission accomplished," she says
"And I've got great news. In Tijuana, they sell penicillin over the counter."

From there, various levels of Tijuana-styled hijinks ensure. Dave and Wimp hook up with a crooked taxi driver who takes them all over town in search of "Spanish Fly". Spider gets loaded, starts a bar brawl with a bunch of American soldiers, and ends up in jail. Woody and Kathy discover that they're kindred souls - two delicate flowers lost in the jungle - and so they decide to grab a bottle of something stiff and get drunk and cry together.

Later on, they get a motel room and fuck. Gently, I imagine. By the way: it's not like I was expected Shelley Long to get naked or anything, but her aversion to showing skin reaches epic heights here. We get a shot of her back when she takes her shirt off, and when she turns around, the camera is locked on a close-up that starts at her shoulders. A bra strap. That's what we get. Ms Long, this is an outrage.

Anyway, you know how these things go. By the end of the evening, basically everyone in Tijuana ends up chasing the fellas to the border. Will they make it home before the Tijuana cops, the angry soldiers, and various incensed locals tear our gringo heroes to bits?

Of course they will, although it did look hairy for a moment. Joe "Maniac" Spinell was the border guard, and who knows what that guy is gonna do?

Although pretty chaste for a teen sex comedy - Mexican stripper tits don't really count in these sorts of things - Losin' It is still worth a look. Haley's great as the boisterous, always-up-for-it Big Dave, the script is witty and sharp, the production values are well above the norm for this kind of film, and Cruise is not in it enough to ruin the fun. I was disappointed that we didn't get to see a little more of Shelley, though. Remember her in Night Shift? We coulda used a little of that here.

Availability: Losin' It is available on DVD.

- Ken McIntyre

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