There are curled, dried up maple leaves on my driveway this morning and I can hardly smell sunscreen on my kids anymore. There’s been no sticky burnt marshmallow crust in my hair for almost a week and every store I go to has aisles full of sullen children crying over pencil crayon displays. Summer’s all but done, and come this time just a few days from now, it’ll all be a frozen margarita-soaked memory. So, buh-bye Summer 2014! We had a decent run, but the fun’s gotta stop sometime, and that time is now.
While no one really looks forward to the return of homework, endless permission forms, packing lunches and lice alerts, let us here at Life in Pleasantville provide you with some fun to fill the hours before then.
Top Ten “Back to School” Movies
1. Back to School (1986)
When I returned to University at age 34, I fully expected it to be something like this movie. It wasn’t. There were at least 95% fewer keg parties, and oh yeah, I’m not a kabillionaire like Rodney Dangerfield’s character. Partying wasn’t the focus at my school, as the eco-warrior students of today seem more interested in drinking what appears to be urine from mason jars and discussing Foucault’s panopticon. I WAS DUPED, INSTITUTE OF HIGHER LEARNING.
2. Rudy (1993)
If you watch this movie and you don’t have a liquid substance leak from your peepholes, you are dead inside. Please turn in your “human” card immediately and leave the premises. “Rudy” is based on the true story of Daniel Ruettiger, an Illinois native who dreams of attending Notre Dame University, but not for the hot Catholic chicks. Rudy wants to be part of the real glory – the Notre Dame football team. The obstacles Rudy must overcome academically and athletically will speak to even the laziest of the slovenly sloths among us. I defy you to watch this movie and not at very least start cleaning out your linen closet.
3. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
I love this movie because while a good portion of it takes place outside the high school, Preston High itself is like a character in the film. I could all but smell the disgusting “Fish Fiesta Friday” lunch in the school hallways. This movie was almost two hours of cringing for poor Napoleon – played to perfection by Jon Heder – but for me, the real star was Jon Gries as Uncle Rico. There’s something about a plastic storage system salesman with a late-model van that I find incredibly sexy and yes, I recognize that I probably have some issues. But Uncle Rico makes me wanna do some sweet jumps, and other stuff wink wink.
I also thank this movie for making “Tina! Come get yer dinner ya fat lard!” my family’s dinner call. (We are very popular at campsites.) And anytime one of us has a triumph the joy of which is not shared by others, the haters are taunted with “Don’t be jealous because I’ve been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know I’m training to become a cage fighter.” And you know I am.
4. Grease (1978)
The Grease soundtrack was the first real album I ever owned. I got it for Christmas from Santa Claus the year I turned seven, in 1980. Santa either: a.) Did not listen to the soundtrack beforehand, or b.) Cared little that he was encouraging me to sing “With a four-speed on the floor/They’ll be waiting at the door/You know that ain’t no shit/We’ll be getting lots of tit” while jumping off our couch into a tuck roll. I’m guessing “b” since my parents often had me demonstrate for visitors. This one would make the list for pure nostalgia alone.
As for the movie’s larger message, you can never go wrong with a good old “Change everything about yourself and dress like a slut so you can snag the dude” storyline.
5. Heathers (1988)
Ethan Hawke in “Heathers,” amirite, ladies? Oh, wait. That’s Christian Slater? Same thing. A brooding dude in an oilcloth overcoat with a pirate radio show and a penchant for killing popular girls. Oh, that was “Pump up the Volume?” Every girl’s dream, regardless. These high school movies are starting to blur together. I should probably start taking some ginkeego biloobia or something. At any rate, “Heathers” was awesome because it is the ultimate revenge movie, and darker than the (still awesome) “Mean Girls.” It was “Mean Girls” if the girls were really mean and if the film had been made before political correctness ruined everything. Plus, the movie incorporates a red scrunchie, the most important beauty product since Maybelline “Great Lash” mascara for any 80’s girl.
6. Bring It On (2004)
Who doesn’t love to hate cheeriness? And leading. Leading sucks. Put them together and you got yourself a giant suck hole of really loud, really irritating perkiness that will make you want to slam your hand in a garage door just to feel again. That’s exactly why this movie makes the cut. It examines cheerful people with the lens they deserve to be viewed through: a critical and biting one. Oh, relax. I know you cheer fans are a dedicated bunch, and no one is denying you don’t work hard and perform athletic feats which defy both gravity and physics. Can you just take it down a notch or two? My only warning for viewers is to avoid this movie if you have a child who may be of the age to actually join a cheer team. They don’t need to be encouraged. Watch it for the routines, watch it for Gabrielle Union (smokin’ hot!) and watch it as a warning. Are you ready? BRING IT.
7. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
I might even make this one number one, if forced to choose. Watching Judge Reinhold go nuts on a fast food customer, seeing Phoebe Cates in a bikini and watching Spicoli do just about anything is alright with me. But this movie wasn’t all pool parties and smoking pot and Van Halen claymation hamburgers. It touched on abortion and respectful sibling relationships and I think it did it well, without the heavy subject matter becoming the primary focus. Gnarly.
8. Mean Girls (2004)
I liked “Mean Girls,” but I feel like it could have been more. I’d suggest not watching it right after “Heathers” so it can be judged on its own merit. It was good, and who didn’t know a Gretchen Weiner or Regina George in high school? It was also Lohan’s finest hour, and took Tina Fey outside of her best known role as SNL “Weekend Update” anchor and into an actual role and it paid off big time. I think it’s my favorite Fey role because she played jaded math teacher Sharon Norbury with such accuracy that I’d swear she’d been at least a substitute teacher in the past.
9. Revenge of the Nerds (1984)
Its got elements of racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, and bullying, and those things are very, very bad. And so we hate ourselves for loving “Revenge of the Nerds,” but we do anyway. It’s full of 80’s political incorrectness and nostalgia – right down to full-on women’s natural pubic hair. Seriously, all this upkeep is killing me. Can we look to the nerds and re-embrace this facet of our past?
10. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Okay, so this is technically a “last day of school” movie, but it’s awesome, and it reminds me of a lot of my high school experience, and it’s my list so I pretty much have you by the balls here, don’t I? Bonus points for this movie having an awesome soundtrack with songs like “Rock n’ Roll Hoochie Koo” and “Fox on the Run.” This CD is actually stuck in my car CD player and I don’t even care that my kids haven’t heard music made since 1981. Props also to the film’s wardrobe co-coordinator for putting Matthew McConaughey in the tightest pink pants known to man, emphasis on man.
There you have it; a selection of school on film designed to make you yearn – or at very least not dread – the return to books and learnin’ and such. What films did I miss, and what would you add?