Movie review: ‘Just One of the Guys’

I have reviewed a film about high school students where the senior cheerleader was played by an actress who was only 15 years old in filming and will change direction today. I’ll be taking a look at a high school movie called “Just One of the Guys,” where the star is supposed to be a junior but during filming the actress was 27 during filming. Certainly the age thing isn’t anything new (Olivia Newton-John was 29 when “Grease” came out in 1978) and “Just One of the Guys” isn’t a bad film. It’s not a great one, but it manages to overcome all the pitfalls that befell so many other filmmakers. It’s watchable, but it’s no award-winner.

‘Just One of the Guys’
(1985; 90 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Lisa Gottlieb and starring Joyce Hyser, Clayton Rohner and Billy Jayne – billed here as Billy Jacoby)

SHE BECOMES A GUY FOR THE STORY

(NOTE: I expanded this review and updated some links on April 11, 2016. I expanded the review again, fixed some misspellings and updated links on March 18, 2018.)

Hollywood has long had a love affair with characters who become someone else, even if they had to change sexes. You can find parents becoming children and vice versa (“Freaky Friday” or “Like Father Like Son”) or find actors’ characters changing sex such as the recent Wayans brothers comedy “White Chicks” (click here for my review) or with a star playing the opposite sex, such as John Travolta in “Hairspray.”

(CLICK HERE FOR ALL MY MOVIE REVIEWS)

The teenager pretending to be of the other sex at school isn’t new either. So, today, I’ll look at “Just One of the Guys”. It has a girl pretending to be a guy so she can write a story for her high school paper to get a summer internship as a newspaper reporter. (Remember those? Real, competent reporters actually still being in the profession … I wish more people could remember.)

While “Just One of the Guys” stands way above Corey Haim’s lame effort in a sequel called “Just One of the Girls,” it limps along in mediocrity with a few good moments and a couple of nice efforts by supporting actors before spluttering to its predictable and saccharine end. So, not great but not truly bad, either.

So, for the plot …

Joyce Hyser plays “Terry Griffith” (yes, the movie poster for the film says “Terri” but it is “Terry” in the actual credits), an aspiring journalist with a college-age boyfriend who needs to write a great story to impress her journalism teacher. The film gives a respectable amount of time to the run-up and then Hyser, whose acting credits include the hilarious teen comedy “The Hollywood Knights” (click here for my review), goes off to another school to pretend to be the male “Terry.”

Hyser is good in the role (although few high school juniors look as mature as she does here) and has an efficient performance with a lackluster script. She comes across earnestly as both characters and is especially effective in scenes with her over-sexed brother “Buddy Griffith” played by Jayne (I wonder if the over-sexed younger brother named “Bud” two years later on TV’s “Married with Children” was inspired by this one?). Another credit for Hyser is for “This is Spinal Tap” and she hasn’t had an acting credit since 2014.

The duo has a surprisingly funny scene as she needs advice on how to walk like a boy. OK, with the sock in the pants stunt out of the way, she’s off to the other school to experience it like a boy.

The first person Hyser encounters is William Zabka as “Greg Tolan,” the jock that rules the school. Zabka knows the role well, as he was “Johnny Lawrence” in “The Karate Kid” and “Chas Osborne” with Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School” (click here for my review). It’s not a good encounter, but she meets Clayton Rohner as “Rick Morehouse.”

Of course Hyser and Rohner then run the gamut of boy-girl/girl-boy issues in “Just One of the Guys” from PE class to her going to use the boy’s restroom. The two become friends (what else?) but of course he doesn’t know Hyser is a she.

Oscar nominee (yes, he is, but not for this one) Zabka has since outgrown this type of character, but he did such work as well as anyone. However, he doesn’t really leave much of an impression here and I’m not sure he even had the chance with the material. As for Rohner, with his effort, I’d say you’ll forget his character 10 minutes after watching the film. Zabka was nominated for an animated short in 2003 and his latest project is reuniting with Ralph Macchio in a TV series extension of KK called “Cobra Kai.” Rohner is in his first movie here and he’s worked steadily in Hollywood, notching 82 acting credits since 1982.

Others are equally unimpressive including Sherilyn Fenn as “Sandy” in only her second feature film (she’d gain acclaim later for her work in TV’s “Twin Peaks” with nominations for both a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy) and Kenneth Tigar as “Mr. Raymaker” the journalism teacher. Tigar isn’t a big name, but he’s had a prolific career with 160 acting credits dating back to 1970.

As for Jayne, he does a credible job as the over-sexed younger brother who does little except make sexual comments and look at Playboy magazines (or their centerfolds on his wall). Remember, good material (even the stereotype here) is difficult to find in this one. Jayne was also in “Cujo” and the majority of his career roles has been on TV.

Speaking of the television medium, all in all, most TV shows of the era gave you an equal amount of competence on screen.

Of course, the film spins itself out at the prom (what else for a movie about high school?) and the truth about “Terry” comes out with a flash of a few seconds of Hyser’s open tuxedo shirt (remember, we’re at PG-13 here) and then culminates with her and Rohner talking that summer, by which time Hyser is back in her regular wardrobe.

It’s too bad that all of this comes off as predictable and the filmmakers weren’t able to take stock comedy and liven it up with some original thoughts (see Zabka in “Back to School” for much better material).

Still, in my final verdict, it isn’t all bad and you can actually stand to watch it. I guess any movie can be judged a somewhat-success if you don’t turn it off.

Just One of the Guys” was 72nd at the box office for films in 1985 with a take of $11.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The No. 1 film was the classic-to-be “Back to the Future” at $210.6 million. Other films from that year that I’ve reviewed include:

Other cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Heyser, who had credits included “Valley Girl” and “Staying Alive” before “Just One of the Guys,” had some Bruce Springsteen posters in her character’s bedroom. In real life she dated Springsteen. She has since done a string of spots on TV (including “A. Law” and more recently “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) and her last credit from 2014 was in the TV movie “The Wedding Pact.”
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “In the boy’s restroom at the high school, there is graffiti on a stall that reads: LISA + JOYCE ARE SLUTS, an in-joke referring to star Joyce Hyser and director Lisa Gottlieb.”
  • Cast members lucky enough (no, I’m not kidding) to have notched an episode of “The Love Boat” (click here for my take on the TV series) are Toni Hudson, who plays Hyser’s friend “Denise;” and Leigh McCloskey, who plays Hyser’s boyfriend “Kevin.”
  • Arye Gross, who plays “Willie,” is most recently in a recurring role as the medical examiner in the hit TV show “Castle.” He also had roles in “Minority Report,” “Gone in Sixty Seconds” and 68 of his 109 acting credits are for TV shows or TV movies.
  • Heyser was billed as “Joyce Heiser” for her role in “The Hollywood Knights” and “Valley Girl,” but, oddly enough, was under “Hyser” for a film that came between the two. I guess Hollywood productions don’t always go in sequence. However, “Just One of the Guys” was filmed in sequence and not in the more common technique of filming different scenes out of chronological order.
  • The film was once ranked 48th on an Entertainment Weekly list of Top 50 high school movies.
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “First of the modern era teen movies derived from plays by playwright William Shakespeare. In an article entitled ‘Shakespeare Helps Us Fumble Through Life’ by Simon Lewsen published on 3rd June 2013 at website Hazlitt, it states: “The first of these was ‘Lisa Gottlieb”s 1985 Twelfth Night revamp, Just One of the Guys (1985), but the game changer was Baz Luhrmann’s high-camp Romeo + Juliet (1996). Other teen-Shakespeare adaptations came in quick succession: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Never Been Kissed (1999), Get Over It (2001), and She’s the Man (2006).’”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014-2016, 2018.
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