Man, the ’80s sure knew how to do a ’50s movie right. Mischief feels every bit like an ’80s film, all while placing you 30 years in the past, very much like the same year’s Back to the Future does–as ridiculous as that comparison between the two films is.
Mischief follows a bumbling goofball, Jonathan (Doug McKeon) who’s afraid to talk to his crush, popular girl Marilyn (Kelly Preston). There’s a new kid in town, Eugene (Chris Nash), who moves in next door to Jonathan. Eugene is a James Dean type who loves Elvis. He acquires a soft spot for Jonathan and decides to help him win over the girl.
Ultimately, the film not overly fixated with sex–it’s about the friendship between the guys. The two friends posses an unlikely chemistry with one another. The dichotomy works so well. With Jonathan, the film strays away from all the archetype cliches, although makes up for it with Eugene. You can’t help but wonder if they modeled the pairing after Richie and the Fonz. Although Eugene is a bit more brooding.
Mischief outdoes its “high school romp” contemporaries in every way. Not only is there a change of scenery by adjust the time period, but the movie tells a cohesively good story, rather than merely showing scene after scene of ensuing hijinks.
While the narrative is a little brittle, it has a lot more structure than the likes of Porky’s or The Last American Virgin. The premise is simple, but the way the plot is executed is unique. Sometimes the most overdone concept can feel original if it’s done right.
Although the script is average, it excels thanks to the two leads who carry it almost entirely on their shoulders. They both have a great sense for comedy and have a knack for making things funnier than they probably ought to be. Sometimes the bits cross the line into awkward territory, but their performances scavenge for the funny parts, bringing them to the surface.
McKeon and Nash have help from director, Mel Damski, who knows how to squeeze the most humor out of every scenario, even if he isn’t great at building suspense through the narrative. Everything seems rushed, but then you realize that may a good thing, since the alternative would most likely be to fill space with empty scenes.
Mischief isn’t as dated as most comedies from that era. Even the glorified Fast Times at Ridgemont High shows its rust after all these years. If you like this sub-genre of ’80s cinema, you’ll most likely put this one towards the top of your list. The shenanigans don’t ever feel contrived, and Mischief doesn’t have that dated indie feel of some other movies, which perhaps makes it even more enjoyable today. The characters are genuinely having a good time, and so are you watching it. And, of course, it’s all backed by a killer soundtrack.