Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace) is a teenager whose widowed father (Martin Mull) is manager of a hotel in the city, where he lives with his grandmother (Ruth Gordon). His grandmother is an irrepressible old woman who is constantly getting into trouble, and Clifford's father is worried about how stable his management postition is. Clifford has troubles of his own when he starts a new school, and immediately makes enemies with the resident bully, Moody (Matt Dillon), who demands protection money from the kids. When Clifford refuses to pay, Moody does his very best to make his life a misery...
Ever wondered what the missing link between a teen movie like Breaking Away and a teen movie like The Breakfast Club would be? Look no further than My Bodyguard, which was written by Alan Ormsby. It doesn't feature any inspiring sporting events, neither does it play a selection of eighties hits on the soundtrack (Dave Grusin's music is actually quite twee), but it is heartwarming without shying away from real emotional pain - as well as real physical pain.
It's not that Clifford's family don't love him, but they don't offer much support when things get tough for him at school. His father is more concerned with keeping his job and restraining his dotty mother, and although he phones the school to complain about Moody's behaviour, it only serves to single out Clifford for rougher treatment. Still, Clifford can't take matters into his own hands, but comes up with an ingenious idea to prevent further attacks: he'll get a bodyguard.
While the bullies are top dogs, this film sees the misfits providing support for each other, and it's encouraging to watch. The most visible misfit is Linderman (Adam Baldwin), a hulking youth about whom many stories have grown up around, he raped a teacher, he shot someone dead, that sort of thing. Clifford sees in him a solution to his problems, and the scene where Linderman helps Clifford stand up to Moody is one of the highlights.
Gradually, Clifford wins Linderman's trust, and an unlikely friendship develops. This long "making friends" sequence seems pretty mild in comparison with what's gone before, but don't forget this is a comedy, too, largely of the quirky kind. There are many amusing lines, such as the bit where Clifford's father cries "Oh my God!" when faced with the unappetising fry-up his mother has cooked for breakfast, to which she replies, "Aw, so nice to hear you saying grace again!"
However, this jokiness lulls you into a false sense of security. Moody won't take no for answer for long, and while Linderman, who has a dark secret, is making new friends, Moody has recruited his own bodyguard. It's heartbreaking when Linderman is humiliated by the bullies, and the tone turns very serious with Linderman pushing Clifford away and retreating into his former monosyllabic state. Have no fear, there is a happy ending, but My Bodyguard is surprisingly affecting, with a well-chosen cast bringing out the best in the story, which simply and effectively says, don't let the bastards grind you down.