There are few things that so consistently ruin the movie-watching experience for me quite like the presence of Robert Wuhl. It’s nothing personal, I just don’t care for the guy. His ridiculous smirk and constant mugging for the camera, as if to say, “look at me, I’m in a movie,” always seems out-of-place. I can deal with him in “Batman,” he’s in the movie so little, but otherwise the dude just bugs me. And he doesn’t care, I mean why should he? Who the heck am I? As long as Ron Shelton keeps making movies, Wuhl’s got it made. But I wouldn’t mind it if he took all his money from making seven seasons of “Arliss,” (Really? Seven seasons!) and chose never to appear on screen again. So why I chose to subject myself to his 1980 screen debut, “The Hollywood Knights,” is beyond me. I guess I was too focused on the big picture of Tony Danza and Michelle Pfieffer on the cover to notice him. That’s the Danza Effect for ya.
Let me get this out of the way right out of the chute, “The Hollywood Kngihts” may be the worst movie I’ve reviewed so far here on the old blog. This seven years too late “American Graffiti” ripoff is just plain horrible.
It’s Halloween night in LA, 1965…the final night of business for Tubby’s Drive-In, favorite hang-out of a “car gang” (whatever that is) called The Hollywood Knights. The Crips and the Bloods got nothing on this gang of hoods, let me tell ya. Led by Newbomb Turk (Wuhl), they do their talking armed with eggs and sticking their butts out of car windows. Wuhl and his toadies spend the whole movie roaming around looking for pranks to pull. If there’s a punch bowl that needs pissing in, they’re there. And since girls love guys who pee in the punch, Newbomb earns himself an adventure in the back seat of his car with the local hot girl…Fran Drescher?!?
If this is all sounds a bit sophomoric, that’s because it is. But don’t worry, the filmmakers do attempt to be deep as well. That’s where Danza and Pfieffer come in. Pfieffer’s Suzie Q works at Tubby’s but dreams of being an actress. Her boyfriend, senior Knights member Duke (Danza), is having a hard time being supportive. All the while, he’s dealing with the reality of fellow gang member Jimmy (Gary Graham) getting ready to head off to the military…and Vietnam. Wow man, deep. Stupid is more like it. This whole storyline, if you can call it that, seems tacked on. Danza, Pfieffer and Graham have almost no screen time with Wuhl and the rest. Come to think of it, that was probably a good thing for Danza, Pfieffer and Graham, but it doesn’t make their “storyline” any more interesting. It’s supposed to be that whole moment of growing up…the loss of innocence…blah blah blah. It’s hard to get into that mindset when you’ve got a cast of the world’s oldest teenagers. For crying out loud, Stuart Pankin as the geeky honor roll kid was 33 years old when he made this! Not to mention the fact that it’s hard to take anything seriously when Robert Wuhl’s butt keeps making cameo appearances.
About the only thing the film has going for it is the soundtrack. Had the filmmakers put half as much effort into the rest of the film as they did to securing the rights to so many classic tracks, we may have had a better movie.
I love looking at all aspects of movie history, the good and the bad, but I have my limits. Am I wrong for saying that this is a forgotten film that deserves to be forgotten? I kid you not, this film is even inexplicably missing from Tony Danza’s filmography on IMDB. Can’t say I blame him.