Tom Hanks’ body of work in cinema is nothing but top-shelf. From great drama such as “Apollo 13” or “Saving Private Ryan” to comedy such as “Big” or to even a musically-themed pop drama “That Thing You Do!” (click here for my review), Hanks represents nothing but class and professionalism. So, would it surprise you to remember that he headlined a sexed-up, gross-out comedy flick called “Bachelor Party” from 1984? Well, he did and it is an absolutely fall-down funny film directed by the man who wrote the “Police Academy” screenplay from that hit film of the same year. “Bachelor Party” covers it all: guys having fun; girls having fun; and “Max the Magical Sexual Mule” snorting cocaine and having … what? A mule named Max that’s both magical and sexual? Yes, you read it right … this one hits all the bottom-level floors before reaching the basement. So, sit back and enjoy this one, but watch out – it truly deserves its “R” rating and is not just a prudish “R” by today’s standards that you find on some 1980s films.
(1984; 105 minutes; rated R; directed by Neal Israel and starring Tom Hanks, Tawny Kitaen and Adrian Zmed)
A FUNNY, RAUNCHY PARTY FILM WITH … TOM HANKS!
(NOTE: I expanded this review with more trivia and additional opinion – as well as repairing some grammar – on March 5, 2016. I expanded the review again with more opinion and trivia, correcting the name of a key character and the updating of links on April 21, 2018.)
The R-rated comedy train picked up major steam with “Animal House” in 1978 but the genre really hit its stride in the early 1980s. From “The Hollywood Knights” (1980 – click here for my review) to “Porky’s” (1982 – click here for my review) to “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), it didn’t get any better than these.
While the genre would later flourish with the “American Pie,” “The Hangover” (click here for my look at the “Hangover(s)”) and “Harold & Kumar” franchises (click here for my review of “H&K Escape from Guantanamo Bay”), its early 1980s roots are impeccable. So, today I’m reviewing one of the best examples of the genre with Tom Hanks’ “Bachelor Party” from 1984.
Yes, I wrote Tom Hanks. No, not a character, but the actor. That Tom Hanks. You know him. Tom Hanks. He would go on to win two Oscars and be nominated for three others. He represents nothing but class in a sea of Hollywood slime, but you need to also remember that he did an episode of “The Love Boat” – Season 4/Episode 1 – click here for my ‘Love Boat’ overview) as well as “Bachelor Party.” Thanks, Tom. Both are appreciated (especially the “Love Boat” episode).
Anyway, back to today’s film …
It’s simple: Some people just don’t want to admit that “Bachelor Party,” which saw its 30th anniversary in June 1984, is hilarious and you would have absolutely no sense of humor if you don’t laugh throughout it. I wouldn’t put it at the top of my resume if I was Hanks, but I wouldn’t ignore it either. It’s fun, funny and creative as it tries hard to be successful in making the audience laugh. I’m the first to admit it isn’t a comedy classic with him such as Ron Howard’s “Splash,” also from 1984 (click here for my review) or “Big” from four years later, but “Bachelor Party” is fall-down hilarious on its own.
Director Neal Israel also wrote “Police Academy” that came out the same year as well as following up “Bachelor Party” with “Moving Violations,” but that one is quite the stinker (click here for my review). Israel also directed “Surf Ninjas” and most of his career has been on the small screen.
In “Bachelor Party,” Hanks plays “Rick Gassko,” who drives a school bus for a Catholic school. He is completely irresponsible and set on marrying his girlfriend (“Debbie Thompson” played by Tawny Kitaen). However, her family hates him and loves the yuppie idiot she broke up with to date Hanks. So, Tom takes special glee in jerking his future father-in-law’s chain to his (and our) amusement. At the same time, Hanks’ buddies don’t take much to get wound up in anticipation of the BACHELOR PARTY!
Of course, Kitaen is worried that Hanks will be tempted into philandering at the party at the same time his friends are doing their best to put the temptation there (they even invited an old girlfriend to attend). In a parallel story, Kitaen’s former boyfriend, as a way to drive a wedge between the couple, sends over a couple of hookers to her bridal shower in a scene that proves it can get funnier even when you thought it could not.
Of course the boys’ bachelor party at an upscale hotel is the showcase of the movie. After starting off slow, It lets it all hang out: a raucous crowd with plenty of nudity; drinking and drugs; “Max” the mule (no, this is not family-style entertainment, much like vulgar “Pooter-the-Clown” in “Uncle Buck” – click here for my review of that one); and ultimately the soon-to-be father-in-law finds himself tied up to bed with a bunch of hookers in attendance while photos are taken.
Here’s a quick rundown on some of the main players:
- Hanks is at his outgoing, energetic best here. He’s almost naïve if he wasn’t so oversexed and obviously knows he’s popular, and he does a great job showing his off-handed irresponsibility – especially with his stuck-up father-in-law to be. Outside of his best-known works, Hanks was nominated for “Cast Away” and was simply terrific in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (click here for my review), while voicing in the “Toy Story” franchise. He was nominated for the AIDS drama “Philadelphia” and “Big” and I thought he was tops, too, in the wonderful chick flick “You’ve Got Mail” (click here for my review).
- Kitaen doesn’t do much in the acting arena, as her beauty is what carries her in this role. She manages little to nothing much in the way of a spectrum of emotion and her effort is right off the stage of a college production or a dinner-theater rehearsal. Kitaen has also been in “The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak” and “Happy Hour.” I’ll tell you more about her personal life later in this review and it is its own very Hollywood story.
- Adrian Zmed plays “Jay O’Neill” and is the ringleader of the friends organizing the party. Like Hanks, he’s energetic with his character and does an efficient job. So, it’s a passing grade for him and he was much better here than he was in “Grease 2” (click here for my look at the “Grease(s)”). He’s also been on a number of TV shows, including “J. Hooker” with William Shatner.
- Robert Prescott is in his first movie here and plays “Cole Whittier,” the ex-boyfriend who winds up being hung naked outside a hotel before falling butt-first through an open sunroof on a car. Prescott is wonderfully earnest as the clueless guy chasing a girl who doesn’t want him. He was also great as an obnoxious grad student in “Real Genius” with Val Kilmer (click here for my review). After that, I don’t have much to say about him or his career. Sorry, Robert.
- William Tepper plays “Dr. Stan Gassko” and is Hanks’ brother. He does a great job being desperate for a party where he can cheat on his wife and winds up very, very satisfied. Tepper was also in “Miss Right” in a brief career of eight acting credits that ended 2011 – and that was a short and his only acting credit after “Bachelor Party.” He reportedly did script doctoring for studios and died at 69 in 2017 of a heart attack.
- Gary Grossman plays the less-than-creatively named “Gary” here and he’s the over-energized friend who eagerly volunteers to round up the hookers. He’s fun to watch, but could have been much more grating if his character had more time on screen. Thankfully, it didn’t Grossman was also in “Brain Donors” and hasn’t had an acting credit since 2010.
- Emmy winning George Grizzard plays strung-too-tight father “Ed Thompson.” He suffers through a very funny tennis match where Hanks keeps hitting home runs and winds up in bed being photographed with hookers. Grizzard was also in “Flags of our Fathers” and “Comes a Horseman.” His win was for a TV movie with the late legend Henry Fonda called “The Oldest Living Graduate.” He died at 79 in 2007 of lung cancer.
- Deborah Harmon plays Kitaen’s cousin “Ilene” whose smoldering sexuality comes to the surface as she “saves” the women by throwing herself at a group of Japanese businessmen at the hotel (don’t bother with the plot; it will come together quickly if you watch it). Harmon is wonderfully caustic and sarcastic at just the right time. However, she was much, much better in “Used Cars” with Kurt Russell (click here for my review) but hasn’t had an acting credit since 2002.
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone into such detail that you have to pass this one up to know all the great scenes. I’ve had to pass over so much because I just don’t have enough time to outline it all.
Kitaen has one of the most colorful personal backgrounds of any actor in the film. Hanks would go on to serious drama as well as becoming a director and producer. On the other hand, from IMDb.com and other sources: Kitaen, who would gain some measure of fleeting pop fame from “Whitesnake” music videos, would date O.J. Simpson; be accused of spousal abuse of her professional athlete husband (baseball pitcher Chuck Finley); and deal with drug issues and wind up on a celebrity rehab show. Whew! And you thought the film had its rough moments!
“Bachelor Party” was the 19th ranked film at the box office in 1984 with $38.4 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It was a wonderful year for the R-rated comedy with a pair of classics coming in ahead of “Bachelor Party:” “Police Academy” (6th with $81.1 million) and “Revenge of the Nerds” (16th with $40.8 million – click here for my review). The No. 1 film of the year was “Beverly Hills Cop” with $234.7 million. Other films I’ve reviewed include:
- “Cannonball Run II” (simply awful sequel) – click here for my review
- “The Flamingo Kid” (outstanding) – click here for my review
- “Night of the Comet” (OK sci-fi thriller) – click here for my review
- The original “Red Dawn” (solid action) – click here for my review
- “Splash” (wonderful Hanks comedy) – click here for my review
- “Top Secret!” (hilarious comedy) – click here for my review
- “Up the Creek” ( “Animal House” rip-off) – click here for my review
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- Kelly McGillis was considered the original female lead, but was dismissed (reportedly because she wasn’t sexy enough). Ouch, but then again, it certainly didn’t hurt her career.
- The biggest “thank you” for not casting an actor goes to whoever didn’t let Paul Reiser do the Hanks part. The talentless, cloying Reiser is only good playing smarmy little slugs and typically disappoints in any role he’s ever played. Thank goodness he didn’t get the chance to ruin this one.
- The actor with both the most exotic name as well as oddly named character is Ji-Tu Cumbuka, who plays “Alley Pimp.” He was also in the wonderful TV prison movie by Michael Mann called “The Jericho Mile” (click here for my review) and he died in 2017 at 77 of vascular disease.
- Former Playboy Playmate Roseanne Katon plays “Bridal Shower Hooker.” Despite other credits such as “She Devils in Chains” and “Motel Hell,” she appears to have always had a more conventional home life as she remains married to Richard Walden after they married the year this film was released – 1984.
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “This film had a sequel, Bachelor Party 2: The Last Temptation (2008), which didn’t come out until 24 years after this film did.”
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