Don’t let the low budget camera work fool you, Hot Moves isn’t a movie to sleep on. Released in 1984, this film does for the Los Angeles beach scene of that era what American Graffiti did for the car cruising scene of 1962. Using candid perspective and documentary-style establishing shots, Hot Moves perfectly embodies the spirit of Venice Beach, properly utilizing its setting as a living, breathing organism unlike most movies I’ve seen. And the homage doesn’t stop at establishing shots. The story and characters become one with this culture so that the setting doesn’t come off as merely a tactic to contrive a fun summer ambience. This is the real deal.
A possible progenitor of American Pie, Hot Moves is a sex comedy in the purest of forms. Four friends start their summer off with a pact to lose their virginities by the time school starts up in the fall. One of the guys, Michael (Adam Silbar), who’s in a serious relationship with Julie Ann (Jill Schoelen), can’t get his girlfriend to take that next step so he starts to look elsewhere.
This movie isn’t afraid to be raunchy, and could make a case for itself to garner an X rating (now NC-17), but perhaps its youthful spirit keeps it in R territory. Part of the reason why it’s so unhinged is because it doesn’t waste time with manufactured character development. We simply see the friends romping around town enjoying their youth–albeit in a slightly irresponsible way–without ever becoming farcical.
Larry Anderson and Peter Foldy’s script isn’t filled with great dialogue. The comedy almost always falls flat, trying way too hard with forgettable jokes. But credit to director Jim Sotos, the narrative is superb, especially considering the immature nature of this movie.
Among other things, Hot Moves doesn’t have the soundtrack of American Graffiti. I know this is a budget issue, but there’s an absence of any iconic songs from that time period. The music the film does feature is often times much too on-the-nose. A character says a line and the song playing behind him echoes those same exact words. And this happens on a couple of occasions. Then there’s one song that plays about six times.
Despite its juvenilely misdirected premise, the film has a somewhat mature resolution in the end. I’m not usually a fan of movies that depict sex as an end-all-be-all, but Hot Moves redeems itself once or twice. Filled with charismatic leads and a well-shot ambience, this movie gets the job done.