Problematic Movies of the '80s | Bachelor Party (1984)
Warm up time is over. The movies of my ascension and my going through them was all starting to lead here. No more gloves. Time to get my hands dirty in the potential muck of the truly problematic films. Yes — Fast Times, Class, The Three Amigos all had some edgy areas to look at askew but these were and are not the films we think of when the 2018 word of the day problematic comes up.
Part of the point of these essays/reviews is to look under the hood of the engine that drives men my age (including guys like Brett Kavanaugh) and see what we saw in our most formative years. Journey and Blue Oyster Cult and MTV. What we consume, entertainment-wise, has to have some influence on how we walk through life. I’ve stretched the muscles with some of my favorites from days gone by but the point is to squat down in the weeds and like the opening sequence of Blue Velvet, dive underneath the cheery facade and see the creepy crawlies under the carpet of green.
So, here we go.
I don’t recall much of Bachelor Party. I remember my buddies and I thought it was hysterical and that Tawny Kitaen (the girlfriend of David Coverdale of Whitesnake as well as the eye candy for several of their videos) was in it. Going in to the first viewing of the film since I was seventeen-years old was a bit like seeing it the first time except that I now have an image of star Tom Hanks as America’s Dad so it’s a bit like peeking behind a beloved actor’s early life and seeing the seedier side of things.
Written by Bob Israel, Neal Israel, and Pat Proft
Directed by Neal Israel
Is it possible that I was indelibly stupid as a teenager? It must be possible (indeed, probable) if I found anything remotely funny about this film. I mean, in rewatching it, I had to pause the movie five times just to get up and remind myself to keep watching.
During my five years as a member of ComedySportz Chicago (1993–1998) I found that the kind of broad, dumb humor that was most embraced by the audience could be reduced to me getting up onstage, wild-eyed and with my hair teased up into what could best be described as “Heat Miser Aesthete,” lifting my shirt, smacking my belly and screaming. The audience laughed hysterically and my time with that group was defined by it. I slowly began to hate the audience for it.
At a certain point, I became so bitter about how stupid our comedic output was and how willingly our drunk audience lapped it up like dogs eating vomit in a corner, that I had to leave. No one likes an angry comic judging them from the stage and trying to inject politics or social theories on a stage meant for the humor of 5-year olds.
Rick (Tom Hanks) is an impossibly smug young man who announces to his arrested moron friends that he is getting married to Debbie (Tawny Kitaen.) After first reacting as if he has announced his decision to cut his penis off, they decide that it is the perfect opportunity to have a bachelor party with drugs, booze, and hookers. Rick tells Debbie about it and she makes him promise to not have sex with a hooker. He does and then we get to see that this paragon of responsibility is hated by her father (who is an uptight businessman who vastly prefers Cole (Robert Prescott), Debbie’s former boyfriend. Dad and Cole decide to sabotage the engagement.
That’s the first half of the movie.
The second half is the ever expanding party, located in a suite of a premium hotel. A suicidal drug addicted friend comes into town to join them. The nerdy friend is charged with getting hookers for the party. Adrian Zmed brings a 16 millimeter porno that is terribly disappointing. Cole tries to buy Debbie back, offers his Porsche, then decides to kill Rick with a crossbow.
The hookers are intercepted and sent to the bridal shower so the bride decides to first take the shower to a male strip club and then dress as hookers and go to the bachelor party. They are mistaken for real hookers and get locked in a room with a bunch of horny Asian men. They escape (leaving her sister to be gang banged by the Asian men) and Debbie goes to the party, Rick pretends she is a real hooker, she calls off the wedding, he convinces her that he didn’t have sex with a hooker, her father is blackmailed with a bunch of real hookers, the cops come. Cole kidnaps Debbie, Rick saves her and they get married.
Beyond the problematic elements coming up, I found the humor to be forced. Even Hanks is trying too hard to be smarmy and cute. This is like watching a bedroom farce written by thirteen-year old boys whose idea of sex is a dog pile on top of girls. They even introduce a mule for a bestiality bit (the mule eats the addict’s line of pills and cocaine, dies and they haul it off into the elevator) that is so benign that the stripper who is supposed to have sex with the creature merely dances around it.
Problematic Moments & Themes
There are two black characters and one Indian character in this drek. The black actors get the dignity of playing a prostitute and a pimp and the Indian actor gets to be…another pimp. Couldn’t Rick have one black friend? Couldn’t Debbie have one? Just for shits and giggles?
Gary: Are you the pimp?
Gary: You look like Gandhi!
Rajah: I've got girls to sit on your face.
Oh, there’s also the seven or eight Asian businessmen who chase the fake hookers around their hotel room after preventing them from leaving who end up gang banging the sister. Phenomenal representation.
We also get treated to a comedic bit of anti-trans or homophobia (the prostitute is either a cross dresser or a pre-op transgender woman) as well.
Gary: [after being arrested and handcuffed to the she/male he slept with earlier] NO, NOT HER, SHE PEES STANDING UP, NOT HER!"
From start to finish women exist in the film as opportunities to show their tits (a lot) or be the object of seventh grade lust. There is no other reason for women to exist in this movie.
O'Neill: I wish I had someone I could really respect. Hey, look at the cans on that bimbo!
Rudy: Let's have a bachelor party with chicks and guns and fire trucks and hookers and drugs and booze!
Gary: Yeah! Yeah yeah! All the things that make life worth living for!"
Cole Whittier: Rick, I want Debbie. You dump her and I'll give you cash. Ten thousand dollars, plus a G.E. toaster over; a Litton microwave; a Cuisinart; Michelin tires, brand new; a set of Sears' best metric tools...
Did it Hold Up?
Nope. Not at all.
I don’t get the sense that the filmmakers were in this thing to make any sort of big societal statement. This was supposed to just be in good fun and it feels harmless in that way. I’m not outraged by the cardboard cut-out representations of minorities and women because the main characters themselves are made of paper mâché as well.
My biggest problem with Bachelor Party is that it isn’t funny. Which may make me more than problematic myself because I suppose, if it were genuinely funny, I’d have less of a problem with a movie that is nothing but a series of broad stereotypes and lots and lots of boob shots.
Scale of 1 to 10
1 = Classic
10 = Burn all VHS copies of it
Bachelor Party gets an 9
Next Up: Porky’s (1981)