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  Pom Pom Girls, The 2-4-6-8!  This Pom Pom Thing Now Starts To Grate!
Year: 1976
Director: Joseph Ruben
Stars: Robert Carradine, Jennifer Ashley, Michael Mullins, Lisa Reeves, Bill Adler, James Gammon, Susan Player, Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith, Diane Lee Hart, Lou Fant, John Lawrence, Sondra Lowell
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's the end of the school holidays and Johnnie (Robert Carradine) and his best friend Jesse (Michael Mullins) are still looking to pick up girls in Johnnie's car. They settle upon Laurie (Jennifer Ashley) and Roxanne (Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith), and although Roxanne likes them, Laurie has to be manhandled into the back seat instead of verbally coaxed. Once they're on the road, the boys attempt to impress their passengers with some fancy driving, but Laurie remains resolutely unmoved. However, over the course of the next few weeks, she might well change her mind about that...

Years before he was a nerd in Revenge of the Nerds, Robert Carradine looked at things from the other side of the social divide of supposed cool as a jock in The Pom Pom Girls. With a title like that you might expect wall to wall cheerleaders, but although they play a part mainly it's the blokes who take up most of the drama - and the comedy, if you could call it that. This was popular at American drive-ins and went onto some measure of cult success on late night television, but even the promise of nudity - as ever, a guarantee somebody would watch the movie - was pretty much restricted to one scene in the girls' locker room. And one in the guys' locker room: equal opportunities, see?

The script was by director Joseph Ruben, who was gradually making a name for himself and would go on to more prestigious projects in the eighties and nineties. As a whole, the film reminds you of the dark days of teen comedies before Animal House jumped up to change the genre forever, and such films including one of the biggest hits in the style, The Cheerleaders, which this appears to be inspired by, never really found their groove until the next decade, or at least that's when most of them seemed to have been produced. Funny this is not, and this is down to the inherent obnoxiousness of the characters; the girls are all right, but the boys will put you off almost immediately.

Humorous (I use the word loosely) setpieces include the first day back at school learning about quadratic equations with an ineffectual teacher only for the scholarly mood to be broken somewhat when Johnnie pisses out of an open window. If that's your idea of hilarity, then this is your kind of film, and it's true that Ruben captures a certain aimless, "Who cares about tomorrow? All that matters is the here and now!" sense of his characters' lives. This comes over in not only what we're meant to laugh at, but rather unbelievably in light of the crudity, what we're supposed to take seriously as well.

For, yes, you have to put on a straight face for scenes of this film too, as Ruben cannot make up his mind whether Jesse's antagonism with the coach (James Gammon) is a matter for chortles or, hey man, why pick on me? victimisation - was he equally influenced by the rich texture of American Graffiti? Then there's Johnnie's rivalry with Duane (Bill Adler), a fellow student whose girl he has his eye on and gloats when he gets more than his eye on her. The football game against the local villains (who act similarly to our supposedly heroic school) is notable for falling apart after about two minutes and degenerating into a mass brawl, with even the cheerleaders and "crowd" (all twenty of them) fighting. But The Pom Pom Girls tries the patience when you don't have a reason to like anyone onscreen all that much; overall, Carradine would be better as a nerd. Music by Michael Lloyd.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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