Both my breakdancing and 80’s vibe are in full boogaloo swing as I continue to check out high hair flicks – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! This week it’s all about comedy and crazy characters as we head into what can only be described as Tootsie in high school with a side of Yentl. Featuring a fed up gal who decides to see how the other sex lives, there’s plenty of laughs, love and teen debauchery (courtesy of the great Billy Jacoby!) running rampant as a very fetching female tries to be…Just One Of The Guys!
Terri Griffith is a high school student with a single aspiration – to become a journalist. But with her very good looks, gorgeous boyfriend and somewhat charmed life she’s having a hard time being taken seriously. So when she hands in her paper for contention in a possible prize newspaper internship and loses, she becomes convinced that it’s her lack of maleness and not word quality that has the odds stacked against her. Her solution – head over to a neighboring high school and submit her paper as a guy.
While the whole idea of gender switching is far from original, but what truly makes Just One Of The Guys five-star memorable are two important factors – the script and the characters. Written by duo Dennis Feldman (he of The Golden Child fame!) and Jeff Franklin (yes, the Full House scribe!) the script uses it’s Twelfth Night story base to full comedic capacity and never feels like it’s trying too hard. Under the direction of female filmmaker Lisa Gottlieb the film walks the fine line of satire and social commentary, but all with a funny and relatable tongue-in-cheek quality that both elevates the preachy bits and grounds the more zany sight gags.
But in all honesty it’s Gottlieb’s totally talented cast that makes Just One Of The Guys a classic (I said it!) – from the leading lady to the smallest side role. As the tortured Terri, Joyce Hyser sets the comedic tone playing both a girl (she’s got a Jennifer Beals thing going on!) and a boy (think a deeper voiced Ralph Macchio!) with wild wacky abandon. Plus the rest of the cast fills in the funny; Clayton Rhoner as the geek turned chic Rick, Toni Hudson as negative nancy Denise, William “Johnny from The Karate Kid” Zabka as the school bully Greg (that guy is way too good playing that!), Sherilyn Fenn as the Terri seducing Sandy, and especially the ‘geek trio’ of Ayre Gross, Robert Fieldsteel and Stuart Charno as the local bookworms. The whole gang presents so much in terms of character (Gross and Fieldsteel are actually aliens from another planet – so they claim!), quotes (Denise on being at a rival prom – “I’m having such a good time – no one here knows I used to be fat!”) and awesome inspirations (Rohner’s Rick digs James Brown…and dances like him too!) that bringing the solid script up to iconic level is a slam dunk.
But if there is a single standout performance that steals the spotlight it’s work of the young Billy Jacoby (now Billy Jayne!) as Terri’s earnest and horny brother Buddy. As a sex starved teen looking to take advantage of his parents domicile absence, the role of Buddy could have been just another hapless horny dork with good lines, but in the ample hands of Jayne the candid caustic comedy hits all the right notes. From his stance on decorating his room with suggestive female photos (“These women have my deepest respect!”) to his unapologetic impromptu public displays of male orgasm loud and proud (plus teaching is cross-dressing sis how to scratch her balls!), Jayne’s Buddy is undeniably likeable and loveable – a virgin to root for.
But in the end it’s the entire colorful cast and screwy script that makes Just One Of The Guys a stand-the-test-of-time teen flick to check out. There were a ton of 80’s high school comedies that came and went with little fanfare and disappeared into obscurity – meet the awesome exception.