“The Wild Life” by Bananrama. In addition Eddie Van Halen did much of the score for this film. Only one song from this score actually made it onto the soundtrack album:
“Donut City” by Eddie Van Halen. All those Van Halen maniacs on the internet analyze this score a bunch. They claim most of the songs sound like out-takes and early demos from 5150 and later showed up on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge which is your favorite Van Halen album.
Interesting Dated References: Schlitz tall-boy cans, camcorder with a cord, being cool, Chris Penn.
Best Line: Uttered by the young teen rebel: “As soon as you’re scared, you’re dead. Just like Charley said about ‘Nam, ‘We went in sloppy, we went out sloppy.'” Delivered to a security guard by Rick Moranis: “There he is there, the guy in the blonde hair.”
Social Context: Grown men writing scripts about how they really wanted their lives to be instead of how it actually was. Also of note is that The Wild Life was an “unofficial” sequel to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It was supposed to have the same legacy but didn’t do well and has pretty much vanished from the collective pop culture memory.
Summary: I really fucking miss Chris Penn. Not in the way that you miss Chris Penn. You heard Chris Penn died and you were like, “Oh yeah that one dude from Reservoir Dogs, wasn’t he Sean Penn’s brother?” Or you referenced Footloose and acted all ironic and fixed your stupid-ass hair, then you, like, trailed off about how you like “independent cinema.” Chris Penn truly was one of the most neglected actors of this era. Decades from now women will name their children “Chris” instead of “Joaquin” or “Vin” in honor of the fallen giant.
The Wild Life, or as it was dubbed in the marketing campaign, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High, even faster!” was written by Cameron Crowe. The film opens up by introducing us to a plethora of characters, including a very young Eric Stoltz (who also appeared in Fast Times, as one of Jeff Spicoli’s “Stoner Buds”), Lea Thompson when she was still hot, and of course Chris Penn playing some type of awesome Spicoli-esque character, but instead of stoned, he’s angry, drunk, and the character actually has some depth instead of just being a punch line.
The plot gets moving and quickly reveals each persons struggle. Tom (Penn) is looking to party, Bill (Stoltz) is dealing with going out on his own after high school, Anita (Thompson) seems focused on her relationships, Bill’s younger brother Jim is obsessed with being an outcast, and a few others deal with typical teenage things. Man there’s enough Edward Van Halen hot licks in this goddamn soundtrack to make my dad Budman really excited.
Moving along, we see Robert Ridgely look awesome as Bill’s landlord and he convinces Bill to take on the more expensive apartment. As a result, Tom moves in. It becomes apparent Tom’s partying nature is going to conflict with Bill’s “becoming adult” persona. But hey, what are good 80s comedies without a little hilarious buddy conflict. Anyway, Tom convinces Bill and a few others to go to a strip club. At the strip club a brawl breaks out and semi-hilarity ensues.
Meanwhile, Anita struggles with her cop boyfriend and pines for her ex (Bill). Fucking Chris Penn delivers a hilarious dive into a pool. This movie is good, I like Chris Penn, and that’s that. Fuck off. This movie even makes Rick Moranis seem funny. Also I should note Ben Stein makes an appearance as an owner of an army surplus store and Lee Ving (lead singer of the terribly overrated band FEAR) shows up as a drunken cable guy. This movie has plenty to offer all. Why the fuck this isn’t on DVD I don’t know.
So Bill has his roommate problems with the constant partier Tom, and Anita finds out the cop is married and gets back together with Bill. And holy fuck, enter Randy Quaid as some type of older brother to Jim and Bill, only he’s a totally shell-shocked ‘Nam vet. Jim and his friend go to visit him at his house. They sit around and talk, and just when you’re waiting for some type of punch line to the whole visit with him, the scene ends with Jim seeing him doing heroin in the bathroom. Seriously. And that’s all you fucking see of him! That was awesome. I should really start taking pictures of what is happening on the screen.
Back at the apartment, Penn has totally thrown a huge-ass party and Stoltz and Thompson walk in on it. I’m still reeling from Randy Quaid. Then what the fuck, Ron Wood is at the party? And that guy from FEAR is still there? So yeah, Stoltz and Thompson go and make out in the closet because they are in love again and the party around them doesn’t matter, or something romantic. Cue the day after. The boys get kicked out, each is back with their old girlfriend, summer is over, and senior year begins. End film. I know that was a really quick summary, but that was the gist of the film. Fill it in with all types of humor that runs along the same lines as Fast Times, and there you have it.
Now as for why this film didn’t get popular, I assume it was because of one reason. It relied too heavily on the popularity and success of Fast Times. Essentially it was a rehash of the same characters and material, but in my opinion it was a little more fleshed out and dramatic. People didn’t see it as the same type of cheeseball comedy as Fast Times. As a result, it didn’t meet expectations. So, with that The Wild Life lost its audience and sank into obscurity. Lucky for my mom’s cassette tape collection though, Edward Van Halen was able to take his work in this film and flesh it out into several mediocre radio hits that we all have come to hate.
Poster and Box Art: The poster for The Wild Life is fair and honest. It displays all the characters riding in the main vehicle of the film. It seems like a lot of effort was put into cleaning up the actors’ faces. As a result, Chris Penn and the rest look a little awkward and silly, but whatever. As Chris Penn’s character says a million times in the movie, “It’s casual!”
Availability: This movie should be available on DVD. Most other Cameron Crowe shit is, but for some reason this one is overlooked. It seems like you can pick it up used VHS for around $10 to $20.