Movie Review: Baggs: The Movie
When the terrific ’80s teen flick parody Baggs: The Movie by Jon Clark was finished, I couldn’t believe that a serious version of the film hadn’t already been made.
I miss that exploitation era, when it was relatively easy to throw together some piece of crap ripoff of a popular new film genre and get it on multiplex screens. I’m mostly a horror movie guy and I believe the ’80s was kind of like a golden era when you could go to a theater and watch somewhat trashy films like Return of the Living Dead, The Toxic Avenger, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Evil Dead II. This was the tail end of exploitation, but they were still good times. Now they’re remaking great ’70s trash like The Hills Have Eyes and Black Christmas with the hot TV stars of the moment and it’s just not the same anymore. In fact, it sucks.
But back then it was also the era of the cheapo teen comedy, films that weren’t quite as raunchy as Porky’s and not as squeaky clean as Sixteen Candles. That period had only one real gem, the classic Better Off Dead, but it was mostly forgettable crap exploiting whatever fads were popular at the time. So, why not one about hackey sack? Especially, as I just found out, the term “Hackey Sack” is a registered trademark of Wham-O, which they bought off the sport’s inventors. There were shitty movies in the ’80s based on Transformers and G.I. Joe, so why not one about a little footbag? I guess Wham-O just didn’t have the vision.
Director Clark obviously knows his stuff, even sneaking in a sly reference to The First Turn-On!! (keep your eyes open for the poster), a teen sleazefest produced and directed by Lloyd Kaufman before his Troma Films turned onto gross-out horror comedies. And he’s smart enough to turn the genre on it’s ear, subtly reversing the main characters. In these kinds of films, it’s the slob and/or nerdy type who must prevail over the snooty, good-looking preppies. But here, the underdog character we initially think we’re supposed to root for, Mageez, turns out to be the villain of the film trying to steal the limelight from preppy fellow footbagger Farsh.
The staple of ’80s teenage films is, of course, the musical montage. Clark packs too many to count into his scant 30-minute film. Obviously in love with a training montage sequence, Clark does let that run on a little too long. But generally, Baggs has a fantastic soundtrack. I don’t know if all the music is original to the film or if some of it was appropriated from actual ’80s movies, but it’s all spot on. Original music is credited to Stephen Breaux and Josh Lao who do a really bang up job. Plus, seeing nerdy white guys do rap is usually an excruciating ordeal, but the hip hop song that closes the movie is a really fun sequence.
So, while it still saddens me that the days of the cheapo exploitation flick at the multiplex are over, it’s nice to see some filmmakers, like Clark, are keeping the spirit alive even if it’s just on DVD or the rare specialty theater screening — and doing such a great job of it.
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