by Jason Coffman
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Finally, two of the most intellectually challenging American films of the 1980s are available on DVD in one package! I kid, of course— no one’s going to be picking up the Hardbodies Collection for intellectual stimulation. Anchor Bay drops an 80’s nostalgia bomb today with the release of this and Spring Break, which I have helpfully reviewed over here (spoiler alert: it’s a hell of a lot of fun). So how do the Hardbodies films hold up all these years after their original release?
Well, the original Hardbodies is definitely worth a look. For an 80s teen sex comedy, this one has a genuinely weird plot. Scotty (Grant Cramer) and his sidekick Rags (Courtney Gains) spend all their time hanging out at the beach and chasing Kristi (Teal Roberts) and Kimberly (Cindy Silver), along with any other scantily-clad young ladies with time on their hands. Into the beach scene comes three old perverts who buy the coolest house on the beach in order to pick up young women: Hunter (Gary Wood), Rounder (Michael Rapport) and Carlton Ashby (Sorrells Pickard). Ashby is the oldest of the three and has some reservations about their plan, especially since it seems Hunter is interested in mixing pleasure with business— before long, they’ve hired Scotty to show them how to “dialogue” girls by giving them “The BBD” (The Bigger and Better Deal).
Hardbodies is full of the requisite juvenile and slapstick humor you would expect from a 1980s teen sex comedy, but it has an uncomfortable edge to it. It’s actually sort of a commentary on the money-obsessed 80s: every potential pickup is a transaction, a trading of commodities, and even dense Scotty realizes that he’s being turned into a pimp by Hunter. Still, anyone looking for a strong subtext of capitalist criticism is going to be sorely disappointed since anywhere you look you’re much more likely to find a topless, oiled-up young woman. Hardbodies isn’t a great film by any measure, but it is an entertaining artifact of the 1980s.
The sequel, helpfully titled Hardbodies 2, is bizarre. Taking place an undetermined time after the first film, Scotty and Rags (now played by Brad Zutaut and Sam Temeles, who bear no physical resemblance to the original actors who played the roles at all) are now inexplicably stars of a popular television series who are in Greece shooting a “dumb movie” called Foreign Affairs. The film bops freely between the film-within-the-film and the adventures of Scotty and Rags off the set. The only other returning character from the first film is Carlton Ashby, the only one of the older businessmen from the first film with anything like a conscience. That goes out the window here— actually, pretty much anything from the first film goes out the window. No mention is made of Kristi and Kimberly, the boys’ romantic interests with whom they ended up at the conclusion of Hardbodies. Instead, Scotty has an obnoxious fiancee named Morgan (Brenda Bakke) and Rags is a free agent.
All the naked boobs in the world can’t help Hardbodies 2 from being a mostly unwatchable slog, and from the sheer numbers of them in the film I’d guess every woman in Europe who was between 18 and 24 at the time appears topless at some point during the movie. The Nude Meter gets turned up to 11, and there is some truly embarrassing slapstick that is sometimes hard to watch. The rest of the film is rounded out with easy jokes made at the expense of the filmmakers— the director is making a dumb sex comedy but thinks it’s art, the producer is having an affair with the script girl, the script girl is so stupid she nearly accidentally kills everyone on the set with a chainsaw, the investors are snapping pictures of all the topless ladies, etc. etc. Despite a few funny lines, it’s rough going.
As a package, the Hardbodies Collection is worth it for the first film, and you can consider the sequel an interesting special feature. If you were a fan of the films in the 80s, or always wanted to see them but never got a chance, this is the perfect way to catch up. Anyone expecting to unearth a lost classic might be a little disappointed, but as long as you’re just looking for bikinis and goofy fun, you’ll have a blast.
Anchor Bay released the Hardbodies Collection 11 August 2009. Both films are on the same disc, and each film features English subtitles and an original theatrical trailer.
Jason Coffman is a film critic living in Chicago.
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