Monday, February 21, 2005

My Bodyguard

Over time, I've discovered most of the movies I keep watching over and over and over again were made between the years 1977 and 1985. I started getting dropped off to see matinees right around 1977 and I started driving in 1985, which expanded my entertainment options far beyond the multiplex. I can't say those years were the best in movie history, but they were certainly golden ones for me.

My Bodyguard (1980) is one such movie I've seen dozens of times, including just last night. It stars Chris Makepeace ("Rudy the Rabbit" from Meatballs) as a meek newbie at an inner-city public school. He unwittingly insults the school bully, played by Matt Dillon, on the first day of class and exacerbates matters by refusing to pay Dillon "protection money" to avoid an ass-kicking. Not able to handle Dillon and his gang of pocket comb-toting toughs alone, Makepeace hires the school's misunderstood "Big Bad John" figure (Adam Baldwin) to be his bodyguard. The great Ruth Gordon plays his lushy grandmother and Martin Mull plays his widower dad, who manages the posh downtown Chicago hotel where they live. A young, frizzy-headed Joan Cusack makes her screen debut here, and if you look very closely, you'll catch walk-ons by Second City alums George Wendt and Tim Kazurinsky.

While it could be said that My Bodyguard fairly reeks of a staid NPR sensibility with its overt moralism and light classical score by Dave Grusin, the movie's excellent casting and subtle charm make it all go down like comfort food. In being a bit too salty to be a family movie and too tame to be a teen movie, it hits a uniquely perfect note. Last year, word came down that a My Bodyguard remake is in the works, but it's hard to imagine them not ruining it in trying to apply a post-Columbine sensibility to the age-old bully problem.

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