The Fox with Good Manners
At Excelsior High School J.J. Manners (Michael J. Fox) is just a regular guy, who just happens to have a crush on Beth Franklin (Nancy McKeon), the trouble is that J.J. hangs out with the geeks and oddballs whilst Beth is dating Beau Middleton (Anthony Edwards) the leader of the A list clique who is so wealthy that even the teachers bend over backwards for him. The trouble starts when Beau spots Beth and J.J. on a Ferris wheel ride and from then on in Beau does what ever he likes to scare J.J. off. When Beau's bullying doesn't stop J.J. challenges him to a car race with a plan to use his friend Archie's (Crispin Glover) father's sports car to win. But when Beau discovers these plans he pulls out all the stops to trick J.J's own friends to sabotage it.
It's a generation thing as if I had been a teen or in my early twenties back in 1983 I would imagine I would have enjoyed "High School U.S.A." and would now look back on it with a sense of nostalgic charm. Here was a High School movie starring a yet famous Michael J. Fox alongside other future teen stars such as Crispin Glover, Anthony Edwards and Nancy McKeown as well as actors who a few decades earlier had been young stars themselves. It also had an easy to watch traditional sort of storyline where the under dog takes on the school hot shot and teaches him a lesson all for the love of a girl. Basically it is a typical High School movie for the early 80s crowd.
But I never saw "High School U.S.A." back in the 80s, in fact I wasn't even the right age for it when it came out in 1983 and as such when I did finally get around to watching it, it didn't quite work for me. Yes the familiar storyline was there for the nice guy taking on the cool kid jerks and there was plenty of humour including getting away with faking a car accident but it didn't really make me laugh. I suppose part of the trouble is that the joke when it comes to so many familiar older actors doesn't come off for me and much of the acting seems awkward with many of the actors over thinking their performances and in doing so ending up coming across as stilted.
In truth what I found entertaining about "High School U.S.A." is the consequential such as here was a movie with Michael J. Fox playing a High School nice guy not too dissimilar to Marty McFly and here he is alongside Crispin Glover who plays an awkward teenager not too dissimilar to George McFly. And then there is Anthony Edwards who to be honest is the last person I would have chosen to play the school hot shot, the top gun if you like.
What this all boils down to is that "High School U.S.A." is an okay movie and has some amusement even for those who didn't see it back in 1983. But I am sure those who were in to their teens back in 1983 and saw it then will still have some nostalgic love for this early Michael J. Fox and Nancy McKeon movie.