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Basket Case and 80′s Philadelphic Cinemas

The best part about being home for the holidays is staying up late, taxing my parents liquor cabinet and watching Netflix streaming all night.  Recently, about 90% of my Netflixing has involved watching episode after episode of critically acclaimed TV like Breaking Bad, Friday Night Lights or Parks & Recreation (not getting the fuss, so far).  I realized that I hadn’t really seen any new movies in 2011, so after a few glasses of Macallan I decided to load up Take Me Home Tonight (2011), starring Topher Grace and Anna Faris.  The basic premise is this: it is the 80s, Topher Grace just moved home after graduating college and doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life.  Also, it is the 80s, which is something that you really need to know if you’re going to understand the film.

The makers of Take Me Home Tonight think you’re stupid.  They thought that by including Duran Duran in the title credits and by making the evil, popular guys flip up their polo collars that they could create a convincing 80′s backdrop.  Of course, they failed miserably, because the movie still has all the sheen and polish that one expects from a 2011 Anna Faris production.  The characters don’t look 80′s and they don’t act 80′s.  This is to say nothing of the fact that there was nothing intrinsically 80′s about the story, wherein a 33-year old Topher Grace pretends to be a 22 year old going to a high school reunion party where he tries to get the phone number of a 25-year old Teresa Palmer, who is pretending to be a 22-year old Drexel Burnham employee.  Drexel Burnham went defunct in the late 80′s because it was run by criminals.  Also, he gets her number in the end.

But the point is that all of the 80′s-ness is cosmetic only.  The blonde chick’s firm could have easily been Deutsche Bank.  The Duran Duran in the opening credits could have easily been Flo Rida.  The Sun Coast video store the overeducated Topher Grace character worked in could have been a Starbucks.  It would have changed precisely nothing about the film.  Despite its (worst) intentions, it is not an “80s movie.”

Basket Case is an 80′s movie.

Basket Case (1982) is the story of two brothers who move to the big city after some life-altering shiz goes down in “upstate,” which according to Rand McNally includes Westchester County.

The 80′s New York of Basket Case is fundamentally different from the 80′s LA of Take Me Home Tonight, in that the former is gritty, with prostitutes hanging out in Times Square hotels and drug pushers offering everything from quaaludes to coke to Duane, the one brother in Basket Case who isn’t a deformed and bloodthirsty monstrosity.  The drug pusher comments on the quality of his blow, but looking at the setting and what he’s wearing, I doubt it’s nearly as good as he says.  Meanwhile, the coke that Topher Grace and his pseudo-Jonah-Hill counterpart find in a stolen Mercedes in fake 80′s LA looks like it has an uncut purity strong enough to power a Pan Am flight from LAX to THE MOON, if you could substitute cocaine for jet fuel.

But it’s not the quality, implied or otherwise, of the drugs that really gives away the 80′s-ness, nor is it the fact that the Twin Towers still exist and they aren’t lingered over deliberately like they would be in a post-9/11 film taking place in a pre-9/11 world.

No.  It’s the hair.  To the left is a picture of Duane Bradley (non-monstrous brother) from an early scene in the movie.  Take a look at those ridiculous locks.  There is nothing cool about that hairstyle.  It is too big and too messy by today’s standards, even if it is obviously from the 70s/80s.  But if that hairstyle were to be affected today by the stylists on the set of a pseudo-80s bildungsromanfilm, then it would be all stylized and coiffed and clean and 2011.  You can’t fake the sort of lack of self awareness that dominated coiffureage in the 1980s.

Duane Bradley and his deformed brother, Belial (naturally), find themselves in this world of hookers, crappy drugs and sloppy hair because they’re looking for the doctors who separated them.  You see, Duane and Belial (pictured at the top of the post) were previously conjoined twins.  Despite Duane being a relatively normal looking dude who might have had a chance to hook up with girls despite the hairdo, he didn’t mind being joined at the hip to a monster like Belial since, you know, they were bros and shit.  While hip hop music and urban slang have made “bro” a thing, the fact is that sharing DNA is still considered in some circles to be a legitimate reason to support another person when he suggests that you kill the doctors who separated you and gave one of you a chance at a normal life.  Oh, SPOILER ALERT.

Belial can’t speak, because Basket Case was filmed on a shoe-string budget and getting the puppet to effectively mimic human speech would have probably brought down the quality of drugs on set even more.  Instead, he can communicate telepathically to Duane, who responds by speaking normally even though Belial doesn’t have any ears.  This method of communication bolsters the impression of family we get between Duane and Belial (because they don’t look very much alike, it is up to the writing/acting to sell the whole “we’re siamese bros” story).  In Take Me Home, I was never going to believe that Topher Grace and Anna Faris were twins because Faris is two years older than Grace.

So Duane and/or Belial make their way through the big city, snappin’ necks and cashin’ checks, when Duane falls in love with pushy blonde receptionist Sharon (an 80′s name if there ever was one. Compare to Faris’s character, Wendy).  Because Belial is a hideous blob of discolored flesh without the ability to speak, he isn’t super on board with the idea of Duane shacking up with some NYC hussy (can you say jealousssss?).  As a result, he starts going on a rampage of his own, which threatens to ruin Duane’s chances of getting it in.

Also, I believe that this shot may have served as the basis for the Lethal Weapon movies.

The rampage, where Belial hops around the hotel they’re staying in, causes quite the commotion among the hotel guests, who want to know what’s going on with that rich guy in room 7.  It’s a good thing that this all takes place in a hotel, where people are ostensibly tourists/sojourners, and not an apartment, because everybody knows that real New Yorkers don’t give a shit what the other people in their apartment building are doing.  This is the sort of detail Basket Case nails (or the sort of thing I’ll give them credit for because this whole post is really just a teardown of Take Me Home Tonight masquerading as a review of Basket Case), while the makers of Take Me Home Tonight were too busy tripping over their own self-satisfaction to even notice that they’re essentially just remaking Can’t Hardly Wait if it was done in the 80′s as imagined in 2011.  But with less heart.

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