Joysticks (1983) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for nudity, sexuality, crude humor and language
Running time: 88 min
Cast: Leif Green, Scott McGinnis, Joe Don Baker, Jim Greenleaf, Jon Gries, Corinne Bohrer, John Diehl, John Voldstad
Director: Greydon Clark
Screenplay: Al Gomez, Mickey Epps, Curtis Burch
Review published September 2, 2008
Outside of its obvious "time capsule" component for being a perfect demonstration of rampant teen sex comedies of the 1980s, as well as displaying a few prominent classic video games (especially "Pac Man" and its sequels), this is vapid, disposable material, only of interest to video game historians and those involved in its production (though I'm sure not everyone involved remembers even making it). You have your quintessential dweeb-y virgin (Green, Grease 2), the hot babes quick to take their shirts off, the punk bullies who constantly pick on the meeker elements, and the older conservative who wants to shut down everything that he sees as corrupting the kids and making them perverts and hoodlums. One would think the film Joysticks is much more evocative of questionable youth appeal than video games, but luckily, it was far from a hit.
The plot is relatively simple: a father (Baker, Fletch) sees his teenage daughter (Bohrer, Vice Versa) spending a great deal of time at the local arcade and decides that the establishment is too dangerous to continue to exist to corrupt more youth, so he vows to shut it down. The owner's grandson (McGinnis, Star Trek III), who has been entrusted charge of the place, does what he can to thwart the father, and it all ends with a showdown between both sides in a head-to-head game of "Super Pac Man" to determine the ultimate fate of the game room.
The events of the film aren't too farfetched in terms of storyline, as adults were frequently thinking that the arcade wasn't the sort of place where anything good could come out. Either they were a waste of money, time, or they exposed the youth to lowlifes, and without much supervision, it was often assumed that there were probably lots of shady things happening. I can tell you that my mother would walk by and see lots of "no good punks" all coming in and out of the arcades, so I was often told I shouldn't be hanging out there, but the attraction of the place was too high, especially as all my friends would hang out there, so I went in anyway. The adults who wrote this film didn't exactly do much to help the cause, as the arcade depicted shows plenty of loose women with temporary clothing hanging around. I can tell you right now that if there were any hot girls who were willing to flash skin in any arcade, they certainly never did it in any I've been in -- mostly because they wouldn't think to dare go into one at all. Many innocent pleasures could be had at an arcade, but women weren't flocking to get into any nerd pants.
If all you're looking for are shots of classic games and naked girls, you've come to the right place. It's too bad those account for only about 5% of the total running time, as the actual plot is laughably bad at its best. The lighting is poor, the acting nothing more than adequate, and the script reaches desperately into the boobs-and-belches bag for laughs all too often. If you like dated films, especially from the 1980s, it deserves at least a peek. No one should expect anything but so-bad-its-good entertainment otherwise.
©2008 Vince Leo