dir. Mark L. Lester
"If I teach you to skate it's because I want to. You get it? I'll call the shots. Whatever I say goes."
I often wonder which pieces of art will live on long after our species dies out. When our civilization ends via nuclear war, environmental apocalypse, or other such meshugga, most cultural artifacts will likely perish. A few, however, will survive. Although we would prefer that future civilizations unearthed The Beatles' Revolver, James Joyce's Ulysses, and Orson Welles' Citizen Kane; more likely than not, works such as Tiny Tim's discography, Jose Canseco's Juiced and Mark Lester's disco cash in picture Roller Boogie will be the sole remnants of our culture.
Were a future civilization or alien culture to unearth Lester's movie they would rightly surmise that our species advanced to the point where we no longer needed our outdated feet. Although our feet had not evolved into superior wheels, we had developed the technology necessary to attach said wheels to our feet. Overcome by the beauty of this pinnacle of technological achievement, humans had melded these devises to their bodies. No longer would anyone walk. Gliding became the most efficient mode of transport.
In the realm of audience insulting, cash in pictures, few movies can top Roller Boogie. It is hard to tell whether the film's screenwriters Irwin Yablans and Barry Schneider, or the director Lester were the most mercenary in this enterprise. I would like to think that up and coming movie producer Bruce Curtis was responsible. After watching Saturday Night Fever at one of those newfangled multiplexes with more movie screens than seats, he likely muttered to himself, "I don't get it. I just don't get it. But I'll be damned if I'm not gonna make a few bucks from this." He soon stepped into the mall record store and picked up a copy of the soundtrack. After scanning copies of Teen Beat and Tiger Beat to see which newest fads he could exploit and make a quick buck off of, he had a eureka moment.
Before the day's end he was on the phone with directors and screenwriters in an attempt to make some money before this fad faded. He knew that the most important element in the moneymaking enterprise would be a recognizable, bankable cast. Thus, the casting agent was the first person he phoned.
"Ann Bell? Bruce Curtis here. Working on a movie. I need a stellar cast with lots of sex appeal."
"Do you have a script yet?"
"Being written as we speak."
"What's it about?"
"Let me worry about that."
"How many stars can we afford? What are we looking at?"
"Just one, so we gotta make it count."
"Male or female."
"Female. Someone sexy and young enough to pull in the horny teenage male demographic."
"What about Jodie Foster? Her heterosexual sex appeal is through the roof."
"We'll never get her. Price tag's too high. Who do you got lower down on the ladder?"
"What about that possession movie--Friedkin's picture from a few years back."
"Yeah. Who was the girl in that picture?"
"She must be legal screwing age by this point. Get her."
"I'll see what I can do."
[American Apparel models during a rare night off]
Curtis assembled his cast and crew and all seemed groovy. Unfortunately, the production soon hit a roadblock. The screenwriters, listening to Steely Dan's Aja (a pile of blow sitting atop the LP cover), reached a crisis point.
"Yablans, I've got a problem."
"This story of yours. The screenplay. I'm coming up short, length-wise."
"What you talking about Schneidster? Refresh me."
"The disco/roller skating cash in picture. The story--Southern California snobs versus slobs tale. Scrappy roller skating kid from the wrong side of the tracks falls for slumming society girl. She rebuffs his advances. Girl inevitably falls for guy. Guy makes boneheaded move. Guy loses girl. Guy wins girl back. They have beautiful relationship until it ends poignantly when girl is shipped back east to attend Juilliard."
"What's the problem?"
"Coming up short. I finished that story and the screenplay's not even at the 60 page mark."
"The fuck? How did that happen? I gave you gold. How is it short? Did you put all the roller dancing sequences in there like I told you?"
"Too many. At this point I don't even think it qualifies as a movie."
"No other way you can lengthen it with some more skating?"
"Not without insulting the intelligence of the audience past the point where it would be obvious even to their simple disco addled bargain basement minds that we hold nothing but contempt for them."
"Shit, I'll get the book."
Yablans grabs The Giant Book of Teenage Movie Cliches and opens up to a random page.
"Perfect. Here we go."
"What you got?"
"Evil industrialist pressures kindly small businessman to sell off his popular teenage hangout (in this case the roller rink) in order turn it into a strip mall, condo, or parking lot. The scrappy kids soon band together to save this establishment and defeat the industrialist."
"Perfect. I'll go back and interweave this into the rest of the story. You know, create some conflict and counterpoint to the turbulent love story. It'll make for a much richer piece."
"How long is that gonna take?"
"I don't know. Probably another day."
"Curtis wants this shit done tonight. Plus, we've got Doobie Brothers tickets."
"Shit. I forgot."
"Listen, just tack it on to the second half of the movie. No one's gonna care."
"Fine by me. Pass the yayo."
"Yayo? That's an anachronistic reference. This is 1978. Scarface won't come out for another 5 years."
The crisis was averted. The movie got made. All was right with the world.
[Jim Dangle's Uncle assesses the situation]
As cynical an undertaking as Roller Boogie is, it is still a goddamn entertaining movie. Truth be told, any movie that lives up to its title is a stellar achievement as far as I'm concerned. Roller Boogie lives up to its title and then some. It has more rolling and boogieing than anyone up to that point imagined possible in a motion picture. It also has an equal balance of hokey dialogue, stilted-sub-Wayne-Gretzkie-on-SNL-cue-card-line-readings, and girls in spandex. What more could one ask for? What it lacks in goodness, this film more than makes up for in sheer unbridled awesomeness. Roller Boogie is truly a movie for the ages.