Mischief (1985)
Mischief (1985)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: February 8th, 1985 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Mel Damski Actors: Doug McKeon, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelly Preston, Chris Nash, D.W. Brown, Jami Gertz, Margaret Blye




n Nelsonville, Ohio, in 1956 (labeled as a galaxy far, far away), clumsy, nerdy 17-year-old Jonathan Bellah (Doug McKeon) and Harry Horner (Andrew Ream) drive around in a new ride – a turquoise Studebaker belonging to Jonathan’s father. As soon as they spy one of the hottest girls in town, Marilyn (Kelly Preston), accompanied by her frumpy friend Rosalie (Jami Gertz), Jonathan loses sight of the road and slams into a fire hydrant. Meanwhile, Chicago newcomer Gene (Chris Nash) moves in next door, similarly cruising his motorcycle recklessly around the block, while dressed in black leather, spouting obscenities, and bragging about having been kicked out of school for sleeping with two female students.

As a charity job, Gene offers to be a wingman for Jonathan, who desperately needs a confidence boost and some smooth moves. “I bet I could get you laid within a month,” Gene insists. Rule #1: Make eye contact at every chance. But before he can get to additional rules, Gene realizes just how tough it will be to whip the introverted high schooler into shape, considering that the kid is nerdy, bullied, and cripplingly shy. At the same time, Gene has his sights set on cute girl Bunny Miller (Catherine Mary Stewart), who happens to be dating a very popular, rich, yet obnoxious jock counterpart (D.W. Brown).

It’s immediately amusing that the filmmakers are attempting to make a raunchy sex comedy set in the ’50s. With classic vehicles, polio shots, old-fashioned senses of honor, and the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” providing a backdrop for attitudes and inspirations, “Mischief” does an exceptional job recreating and capturing rebellion, angst, and out-of-control hormones – with a twist of humor – in a dated environment. In many sequences, the picture is laugh-out-loud funny. On the surface, it’s about getting the girl; but at its heart, there’s an effective friendship and believable bonding between polar opposites, each gaining lacking qualities from the other, despite Gene’s obvious superiority in the macho department. The acting isn’t always top-notch, but the idea, the plot, the visuals, and the settings are outstanding.

Because of the time period, there’s a certain innocence wafting about the characters, along with an airy, romantic touch. The soundtrack similarly establishes a light, upbeat tone. But there’s still time for perusing dirty magazines, experiencing inconvenient erections, experimenting with alcohol, crashing cars, engaging in elaborate scrapping, copping a feel, and having awkward intercourse (“You’re not doing something right!”). Curiously, Jonathan’s progression with his conquest is far more successful than what is fitting with the storytelling; he really doesn’t seem capable enough, and Marilyn doesn’t seem like someone who would fall for his simpleness and immaturity. Nevertheless, it becomes a clever shift in the development of the characters when Jonathan has more luck with his lady (whom he pursues) than Gene does with his (who pursues him). And though “Mischief” is primarily a comedy, it never fully dispenses with adult consequences for severer misbehaviors, imparting a genuine sweetness to the more rambunctious shenanigans – and even to the more unlikely or outrageous resolutions.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10