The movie we’re looking at today features comedian Paul Rodriguez, so I was trying to remember when I first became aware of the the Mexican-American comedian. Then as I looked up some of his history it hit me…I remember watching him on a short-lived sitcom (only six episodes) back in 1984 called a.k.a. Pablo. From there I saw him do stand-up on HBO and appear in a handful of films, usually in more of a supporting role. But today’s film, which didn’t get a very big release, has him as one of the leads. He stars with Michael O’Keefe in 1986’s The Whoopee Boys.
The film focuses on two New York street hustlers, Jake (O’Keefe) and Barney (Rodriguez) who head down to Palm Springs, Florida to escape the cold of the north. Upon arrival, they crash a snooty party at a mansion where Jake meets an heiress named Olivia (Lucinda Jenney). Though she comes from a wealthy family, she can’t access her considerable family fortune unless she marries someone her uncle, the judge (Dan O’Herlihy) approves of. Oh, and she only has 30 days left to find said husband. Not only that, she needs the money desperately to keep the orphanage/school she runs open.
Of course, Jake thinks he can fit the bill, but before he can convince the uncle that he is worthy, he and Barney need to go to charm school. They end up deep in the everglades at school run by the strange Col. Phelps (Denholm Elliott). Also at the school are a collection of strange people including some familiar faces like Marsha Warfield and Eddie Deezen. Upon completion of the course, Jake now has to convince the judge that he is a more refined husband than rich jerk Strobe (Stephen Davies).
Even though it’s a bit convoluted and hackneyed, I did like the basic premise of the film…a street hustler has to pass for a society type so he can marry the girl. The film does hit a road block, however when it spends an extremely long amount of time with the whole charm school thing. It just goes on and on and on. Even with a name like Denholm Elliott playing the head of the school, they give him very little to do. I always enjoy Eddie Deezen, and he provides a few fun moments in the charm school scenes, but on a whole this diversion from the story causes the whole middle portion of the film to drag.
As for our two leads, Michael O’Keefe does a solid job, but he’s pretty much the straight man to Paul Rodriguez. I have to wonder why Jake actually keeps Barney around, ‘cause he seems to cause more trouble than anything. Much of Rodriguez’s role just seems to be an outlet for him to use bits from his stand-up act. Early in the film, Rodriguez does a bit where he talks about how hairy Iranian guys are which I’m pretty sure I heard him do in stand-up on the first Comic Relief special on HBO. There were several times throughout this film that Rodriguez does jokes that probably many would consider a wee bit racist today. So though Rodriguez has a few funny moments in this film, he also has several that are just squirm inducing.
The strongest element of the film is the final act, where O’Keefe has to put what he learned in charm school into action to try and impress the high society types. It helps that he’s up against some ultra snooty rich jerks…including one played by Taylor Negron. One really weird element of the final act is a scene where the rich types challenge O’Keefe and Rodriguez to a strange game called “Cross-Courts,” a game which somehow manages to make slightly less sense than Quidditch. I never did quite understand what was going on. During one of the party scenes in the final act, be sure to be on the lookout for an uncredited Linda Fiorentino as a Spanish-speaking maid.
In the end the film mildly amusing. Much of its humor just hasn’t aged well, however. For that matter, neither has Rodriguez’s rendition of “Making Whoopee,” which he sings over the end credits. I’m not searching Ebay for the soundtrack album anytime soon, let’s just leave it at that.
NOTE: The Whoopee Boys was just released on DVD and Blu Ray by Olive Films. Thanks to them for providing a copy for us to review.