Counting down the 12 days until Christmas with the 12 greatest (I know they’re all great) Joe Don Baker films! 12 high points in the Texas born actor’s great stable of performances all the while celebrating the true spirit of Christmas along the way! So grab a bottle of Wild Turkey and prepare to have some Christmas spirit fed to you from the sweet supple teat of JDB!
The 12th Day of Joe Don Baker: Joysticks (1983)
The BK Basement
What is it? Animal House in an Arcade!
Who’s in it besides Joe Don Baker? Leif Green (Eugene Groebe), Jim Greenleaf (Jonathan Andrew McDorfus aka Dorfus), Scott McGinnis (Jeff Bailey), Jon Gries (King Vidiot), Corinne Bohrer (Patsy Rutter, star of Police Academy 4 and Revenge of the Nerds 4!) “Directed” by Greydon Clark
What is Joe Don Baker Doing?
JDB is Joseph Rutter a wealthy conservative business man (is there any other kind?) who’s valley girl daughter has taken to frequenting the local video arcade and he must shut down this den of sin before she goes down the spiraling slope that is video game addiction.
Why is it on the last day of JDB? Joysticks was held for day 12 for one simple reason, it may be the greatest movie ever made. We say may, because down in the BK Basement we’re still not sure if this even qualifies as a movie. Made as an attempt to cash in on both the popularity of Animal House and Video Arcades, Joysticks represents some of the
worst attempts at comedy and portraying a pop-culture phenomenon.
Basically following the plot of Animal House, there’s a wild and sexy arcade in a small town that local business man and concerned parent Joseph Rutter (JDB) deems immoral and is determined to shut down. Joseph Rutter is essentially Dean Wormer and entire scenes are ripped straight out of Animal House, there’s a town hall meeting scene, one of the kids even ends up banging Rutter’s wife. Though some of the jokes are actually quite good and there’s enough T&A to hold the attention span of a 15 year old, the amateur ‘acting’ and ‘directing’ hold Joysticks back from reaching any rhythm or basic levels of cinematic competency.
Then why are we touting this as possibly the greatest film ever made? Because sophomoric humor is a great thing, and that’s all Joysticks is. Do you see that picture to the right? Do you get the innuendo? (Me neither) but isn’t it hilarious! There’s a hot dog in that girls boobs! It would be even better if it took the nerdy assistant manager at the arcade 5 minutes (seriously) to get it out of there with tongs! Wow! How about Joseph Rutter’s wife being super horny when she’s sleeping or that she’s so sexually aroused by farts that she wakens from her constant sex comma to come running to them. Or how about farts in general? Wicked funny right? How about a “Dorfus maneuver” don’t know what that is? Well it’s like a fart, but only waaaay bigger!!! How about that poster! Do you get the title?! Do you see those hot girls playing video games in sexy clothes?! How rad is that! Whoever made this definitely had their finger on the pulse of pop culture! Just check out the theme song!
VIDEO TO THE MAX! Totally Awesome Video Game! (I don’t know why that’s singular). That actually sums up the entire movie right there. Video games intercut with some gratuitous T&A and some horrible attempt at comedy going on in the background. Joysticks tries so hard to be cool and hip, but it can’t escape the fact that it doesn’t know how to be.The jokes in Joysticks are so bad and borrowed from other, better movies that the constant barrage of them makes the film into some sort of inbred comedy monster baby.
The film just goes on and on with terrible jokes and gags, each incrementally worse than the last. In our write up of Final Justice we mention that we were shocked to see that it seemed like director Greydon Clark had actually seen a movie before making Final Justice. Well, he made Joysticks a few years before Final Justice and he definitely hadn’t started doing his homework yet. Scenes just happen for no reason and with enough randomness and variety to make Seth MacFarlane blush.
When not outright ripping off Animal House, Clark attempts to make his movie as outrages as possible. He tries to fill Joysticks with as many over the top characters and moments as possible, a video game addicted Gregorian Monk, a rockin’ van (complete with hot tub and shag carpeting on the inside) that Eugene has to investigate the strange noises coming from, the Pac-Man themed King Videot and his gang of Mrs. Pac-Men, Joseph Rutter’s nephews follow him around like henchmen and when they’re not eye fucking his 16 year old daughter (their cousin) they’re bumbling around and ruining all his plans of closing the arcade. Who in one of the most horrific scenes ever filmed, get into drag to sneak into the arcade only to be hit on by King Videot. The running joke of Mrs. Rutter being a flatulence aroused sex fiend/ being sexually deprived to the point of madness, is one of the most terrifying things committed to celluloid. Joysticks just keeps pilling on the insanity, even the ending with ‘Grandpa Joe’ (the owner of the arcade) coming back home is so bad you won’t believe that someone thought it should ever be seen by people. you don’t need psychedelic drugs to enjoy Joysticks, Joysticks is psychedelic drugs.
Clark attempts to add depth to the ‘plot’ and ‘characters’ at all the wrong times, the biggest offender is arcade manager Jeff’s tragic history, which explains why he doesn’t play video games. This back story has a fantastic candle lit video game sex scene that ends with domestic abuse. What makes this scene even better is that at the conclusion of the film it gets intercut with the video game showdown making for one of the most jarringly unpleasant conclusions in memory.
Not only is this sequence poorly done and handled, it happens at the worst possible moment. At the conclusion Rutter and Jeff agree to have the flatulent Dorfus play King Videot each other to decide the fate of the arcade, but Rutter’s nephews kidnap Dorfus and leave him as sex bait for Mrs. Rutter tied up on their couch. So now Jeff has to stand in and play against King Videot, but Jeff doesn’t play video games! Not ever since he was banging a girl in the arcade when her dad walked in, beat her and then moved out of state! Call me old fashioned, but I see something fundamental wrong with watching a father beat his naked, post-coital daughter, it stops the movie cold just as it was picking up some steam and shows the level of ineptitude throughout Joysticks.
So Jeff has to go through a terrible training montage leading to a final showdown with King Videot, both of which are intercut with the aforementioned arcade sex scene and domestic abuse incident. You can understand what director Clark is trying to do with scenes like this, but you never learn why. Is he trying to add depth and subtext to a movie whose title is about as subtle as a late night Cinemax movie.
It’s cool to see an arcade (even a poorly designed set of one) and classic games in action. “The Arena” is a pretty cool concept, a giant video arcade set up with 4 ft joysticks. The use of real arcade games and the even getting Pac-Man in the film definitely helps, mainly because the games distract you from the movie going on around them. They even do “Pac-Man wipes” between scenes, which admittedly made me laugh. So I guess you could say that the one thing that Joysticks does well is have video games in it, which is important for a movie based on them.
After getting through Joysticks I wish JDB did more films like this, he’s done a few comedies (Fletch, Joe Dirt, Mars Attacks) and even films like Mitchell, or The Golden Needles have a comedic touch to them. But he really gets to flex his comedic muscle in Joysticks and it is one of the few things that help the film avoid turning into a complete mess. His authoritative Rutter pretty much holds the film together; JDB plays the film as straight as can be giving the comedy a good foundation to fall flat on. He devilishly embellishes how wicked Rutter is and makes him at least a fun antagonist. I like the use of JDB playing his usual conservative, loud mouthed character, but letting the film make as much fun of it as possible; it’s somewhat of a lead into JDB taking his character to James Bond villain heights.
Joysticksis a train wreck we happily can’t look away from. There are movies that are ‘so bad they’re good’ and there’s Joysticks. Its failure to grasp even basic modes of human communication and culture make it a treat to watch. We apologize for the short length of this write up for Joysticks, our ideal way of introducing people to this film is through a four day seminar comprising of two days watching and discussing the film, the third day is hugging out all the emotions that are brought up during the first two days and on day four we solemnly pack our belongings while awkwardly avoiding eye contact with those around us as we all part ways.
Best Joe Don Baker moments:
- Every time I see JDB in the arcade I think I’m watching a live action Donkey Kong movie
- JDB spraying his wife with an aerosol air freshener when he thinks she farted in bed
- JDB’s wife also looks like she’s auditioning for a role in The Exorcist 4: The Joe Don Bakering
- JDB manages to get fully undressed, changed, into bed, and tries to fall asleep all while remaining oblivious to the fact that his still sleeping wife is getting all sex-somniac all over Eugene
- JDB’s explanation of what goes on at an arcade at the town meeting is every nerds wet dream (aka there are girls there)
- After losing his case at the town meeting JDB throws quite the temper tantrum (and for those counting at home that brings us to a total of 7 JDB temper tantrums over these 13 movies)
Joe Don Baker will return in the 12 Days of JDB Rowdy Roundup!