Losin’ It (1983) – A Review
“Tijuana bring your mother to the gang bang
Oh yes you do
It’s been a long time since she had a screw
When she was younger and in her prime
she used to gang bang all the time!”
It’s 1965 and three high school buddies and one kid brother are taking a road trip to Tijuana, Mexico. They’re looking for easy sex, some illegal fireworks and finding some of the all-powerful, elusive Spanish Fly.
Will they get lucky? Will they meet some sexy senoritas? Will they get into some trouble? Will one huge wacky adventure possibly ensue? You betcha!
Dave (Jackie Earle Haley) is the wily leader who constantly has sex on the brain, admires Frank Sinatra and thinks it’s a great idea to stuff gym socks in his pants to impress the ladies with his bulge. Spider (John Stockwell) is the hot-headed rebel, who’s always ready to lay a smooth line on a gal and get into wild fights. Woody (Tom Cruise) is the nice guy who’s quiet, shy and a virgin. He’s the reluctant participant who’s being pushed into finally ‘losin’ it’ with a chick south of the border by his pals.
Before they manage to hit the road Dave’s younger brother Wendell (John P. Navin Jr.) blackmails the guys to go along or else he’ll spill the beans about their plans to the parents. Wendell’s goals are not as nefarious as our three horny heroes. The young enterprising teen just wants to buy a bunch of fireworks that he can sell at marked up prices to his classmates. Smart kid.
While getting supplies they encounter a grocery store owning couple in the midst of a argument that ends with Kathy (Shelley Long) leaving her husband and forcing herself into Dave’s sweet 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. Tijuana sounds like a great place to get a quickie divorce. So she decides to invite herself along.
Once the group arrives there’s a bit of horseplay with ladies of the night, desperate failed attempts to obtain Spanish Fly, Woody making an emotional connection with Kathy, chaotic run-ins with stereotypical Mexican locals, a nasty corrupt policeman and heck of a lot of frantic driving around in that convertible.
Losin’ It is such an average teen sex comedy that it doesn’t surprise me it’s not talked about more. It’s one of those movies where after you see it, it quickly fades from memory. There’s not a lot in it that really leaves a mark on you.
Really the allure to watch the movie is to see some of these now famous actors young, unknown and appearing in a teen sex comedy. If you’re curious to see megastar Cruise star in a lowbrow teen sex comedy and who’s lofty ambitions at the time were to do subpar sex jokes well, here’s your chance! And then we can add the realization that Losin’ It was directed by Academy Award nomiated director Curtis Hanson. That might make you say, “No kidding?”
Nope. But hey everyone has to start somewhere.
This is a relatively ‘soft teen sex comedy’. There’s not an overabundance of boobs. There’s really not even any wild and wacky sex scenes. This is almost like a television version of a teen sex comedy. If they were going to air this on regular television it wouldn’t take an extreme chop job to make television safe.
Maybe they’d have to lose a few bad words, cut one or two shots of boobs and then they’d have a passable teen comedy fit for viewing for the whole family! It’s tame compared to many of its contemporaries, and it’s especially sedate compared to some of today’s more supposed risqué comedies. Losin’ It is like an afterschool special by comparison!
Once again we have a period teen/sex/comedy. Here it’s the mid-60’s. I’m not sure what the allure was and why so many films in the genre wanted to set their stories in the past. Perhaps, it had something to do with reminding current teens that what they’re up to today is nothing new and their parents were taking part in the same shenanigans. That innocent time they heard about decades ago wasn’t so innocent.
I always suspected this 1950’s/1960’s settings so many teen/sex/comedies took place in were reverberations from American Graffiti. Right through to Animal House, Porky’s, Screwballs, Mischief – there’s a bunch of teen/sex/comedies that were period stories. We can say they were something of a nostalgic subgenre in the teen/sex/comedy cannon.
So young Cruise is Woody the virgin/shy guy who his pals are egging him on to lose his cherry with some sexy senorita. And as with movie virgin conventions, Woody feels that his first time should be more special than just banging on a headboard with some anonymous gal.
Fortunately, with Kathy’s unexpected shotgunning on this road trip these two lonely, lost souls find each other and will end up making Woody’s first time a much more special event. Apologies for that inexcusable spoiler.
Everyone thinks of Cruise being such a charismatic movie star today. In Losin’ It there is no evidence of that. Cruise is so utterly charmless and exudes none of the magnetism that will make him so popular in the future. Sure you can blame it on him playing the most boring, least funny member of the group, but when he and Long are up onscreen – it’s a snoozefest. Long is adequate, but the older woman/younger man storyline grinds the whole movie to a halt and is the least interesting portion in Losin’ It.
The movie really didn’t need this boring, emotional arc for a character. Or at least if they wanted to try to give the movie some heart they could have made it a bit more entertaining. Here, these two characters slow things down and you’re left wondering – I thought this was supposed to be a comedy?
Here again was another character I just found boring. He’s not funny, he simply gets into fights and then gets beaten up. There’s not much else to him. If I’m going on a cinematic roadtrip with a group of characters it would help if I like some of them and as things progress I get curious as to what will happen to them. So far out of this convertible full of characters we’re three out of five I could care less about.
But the tide starts to change with Haley and Navin Jr. Kid brother Wendell has the least amount of screentime out of the group. He basically just hangs out at a local garage with a mechanic keeping an eye on Dave’s convertible while the guys go exploring Tijuana. He makes his fireworks score and gets into a some mayhem with Dave. It’s not necessarily major laughs, but he’s more entertaining than Cruise, Long and Stockwell. Yep, the kid is more compelling than the future ‘Mr. Mission Impossible’.
Now the big gun of the movie who I’ve been saving for last – Haley. If there’s a reason to watch this movie he’s it!
In teen/sex/comedies there’s always the ‘crazy guy’. The guy who is there solely to be a complete goofball and who is meant to provide the laughs in every scene he pops up in. Maybe it’s the clumsy fat guy who falls into the pool. Or it could be the guy who drinks incessantly and becomes an out of control drunk. Or even the guy who’s just sex-crazed and goes bonkers over every girl within his eyeline. Dave is the fun goofball in Losin’ It.
Dave is committed to this Tijuana trip and is focused on two things – getting laid and buying Spanish fly. That’s it. While Cruise goes off to make a deep emotional connection with Long and Stockwell gets into fights and thrown in jail, it’s Dave where all the fun on this trip will be found.
The Sinatra-lovin Dave waltzes around with his straw fedora hat, ugly sweater and a rolled up sock down his pants. He’s on the prowl and always when we see him is either after the ladies or trying to lay his hands on that magical pill.
So he’s acting like a buffoon in front of prostitutes, getting scammed by the locals, getting himself in trouble and inevitably running for his life. He’s where all the zany, fun comedy happens on this road trip and he’s pretty funny when he starts to cut loose.
It’s hard to remember that at the time Haley was the most well known actor in this movie. He had just grew out of a successful kid career in the Bad News Bears movies, scored a hit with his teen role in Breaking Away and was now just beginning to branch out into a full-fledged long acting career.
But his momentum began to lose steam very quickly and he would find himself doing guest-starring roles on television and appearing in forgettable movies. He left acting for a bit and then returned giving a critically acclaimed performance in 2006’s Little Children. From there he went to being Rorschach in Watchmen and the new Freddy Krueger in that remake. Losin’ It is can be viewed as a final gasp by Haley before hitting a long dry spell.
So yeah, Haley’s the real star of Losin’ It. I also have to mention Dr. Dirty (aka John Valby) who provides a boost to this flick. He’s a comedian/musician who has a small role in one of the Tijuana bars and does one of his silly, dirty songs – which is one of the verses I quoted at the beginning of this.
Yes, the song is juvenile. Yes, it’s completely stupid. But heck it’s more lively and entertaining than most everything else in Losin’ It.