Let’s face it – You and I, we both love comedy films from the 80s. Across the board they exude a certain warmth, light goofiness, and charm that was distinctive to the decade and never to be seen again. 80s comedies are perhaps our greatest cinematic resource when in need of breezy escape or old comfort. They’re also not a bad place for 80s boobs and a bit of innocent, campy raunchiness.
The 80s gifted us a lengthy, diverse list of goofy flicks and great comedies – some of them duds, others passable, and quite a few so fantastically influential they changed the course of crafting funny. Let’s not tiptoe around the almost fact: The 1980s brought us comedy classics.
Beneath the classics is a goldmine of minor classics, cult hits, and obscure capers that hardly have an audience but should. We’re examining some of those more obscure films, individually and in-depth, in a series called Sleeper Comedies Of The 1980s.
How I had gone so long without seeing State Park is a shame, to nobody but me. I love 80s comedies, hence the series. I love not notable nor astounding yet surprisingly enjoyable 80s comedies. I find escape through woodsy settings in film, especially when lakes and rivers are involved. I enjoy summer camp, cabins, and watersports. We’re probably all adults here – I don’t mind a bit of 80s boob and horned up activity in my occasional cinematic experience either. Above all else, I like charm, a dash of heart no matter how corny, and whatever concoction of that radiates from an 80s film that aims for nothing but fun and funny.
State Park is everything I described above, thus your perfect 80s movie getaway if your taste is at all similar to mine.
It’s a 1988 flick featuring a cast of virtually unknowns, save for a couple vaguely familiar faces and bizarre Ted Nugent appearance, but an assortment of personable people who range from stock 80s teen character to “why haven’t I seen this comedic actor before?” At a glance, State Park is an undistinguished summer teen “sex” comedy. Think of a standard trope and it’s probably present. The core of the plot – Ne’er Do Wells coming together to take on those in power as hijinks ensue – is about as trite as a story comes. And yes, our characters are horned up, lookin’ for love, or a bit of both. Despite copious breasts and expected horniness, however, State Park is tasteful in its choices, favoring mostly funny jokes and silly bits over vulgarity or gross shock. That in itself is a feat for a film of this variety.
The flick kicks off with a tune that sounds eerily similar to Yello’s “Oh Yeah,” famously featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The immediate shamelessness of ripping off that signature Ferris Bueller “bow bow” jingle may suggest you’re in for something completely formulaic. While that’s not entirely wrong, stick with it, as at least a few surprises await.
We initially follow a man in a bear suit who goes by Willy. This vigilante disguised as a woodland beast opens with a monologue in which he rants about greedy businessman Rancewell and his team who are destroying beautiful WeeWankah Park by dumping toxic waste (they’re supposedly building a pesticide plant.) Willy vows to foil their plans. Local youngsters know and adore the ecologically passionate bear, though none know his true identity.
Focus then shifts to various groups of teens arriving at WeeWankah – a crew of high school graduate girls who have a pleasantly fun dynamic going, others who it would be pointless to name or describe, and the highlight of the flick – a couple of punks named Trailor (Christopher Bolton) and Johnny Rocket (Peter Virgile.)
We cut between narrative and Willy’s monologue a few more times, as he aggressively readies the bigger plans to stop Rancewell’s environmentally destructive, money-hungry venture. Along the way, the random assortment of young people who arrived at WeeWankah decide to immerse in the community and activity of the park’s summer camp program, in addition to teaming up with Willy to save the park. Willy’s identity is revealed to be a dedicated member of the WeeWankah community (who saw that coming,) and everything comes together lightly and perfectly despite all common sense, in late 80s comedy fashion.
Let’s clear up the negative aspects of State Park, which for an appreciator of great filmmaking there are many. In fact, let’s just lay it out flat: If you strictly like good movies, this one isn’t for you. Evidently, it isn’t for many. State Park is sitting at a 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, and that’s the audience score. Fans of trash can usually hike a mediocre old film’s score up to 30%, at least. There’s very little to be found online about this flick, and I may currently be writing the most words ever written about it. Whether or not it has fans is a mystery, because those who enjoy this silly, sexy 80s romp haven’t made themselves known.
Much of it doesn’t make sense, i.e. why these different groups of teens stop by WeeWankah for varying reasons yet all decide to stay, mingle, and sign up for classes at the camp. There’s nobody to invest any care into. Merely keeping track of character names seems silly. Vulgarity is low in comparison to what you may go into the film expecting. Most glaring on the negative end is State Park’s general lack of original ideas.
On behalf of light 80s comedy lovers, I ask, “Who cares?” We don’t need much sense in our comedy vehicles. We don’t need fascinatingly deep characters (though more memorable heroes would help.) We don’t need overly raunchy gags or overreliance on shock. We just need the unremarkable 80s formula, and a little bit beyond that.
State Park brings us that formula and more, baby: A ripe setting for fun escape. A bigwig causing problems, and a collective of goofs and nobodies banning together to stop him. Kooky characters. Zany bits. Boobs. Porkin’. An endearing albeit corny message. Easily resolvable conflict. And all of that set to a vibing soundtrack.
To my surprise and yours, State Park packs a few standout gags. One of the girls, Linnie, has a haircutting fetish. She falls for a dork birdwatcher and insists on giving him a trim as he’s out in the field, practicing his hobby. What results is the two of tearing their clothes off, growing comically worked up, and getting nasty. A woman over-the-top orgasming while cutting a man’s hair as he bird watches IS comedy in my deformed brain. Not just a standout bit, but an onscreen antic worthy of some recognition.
Hell, every single character has their stupid quirks. Marsha (Isabelle Mejias) cooks atrociously, wrestles with her conscience after developing feelings for a punk, and sets up camp by a row of port-o-potties, which nobody disagrees with.
The park rangers are hilariously stern; breaking children’s skateboards and tossing kids out for no given reason. Tallahassee Ray (Rummy Bishop,) an aging nomadic party animal, is a comedic delight. The heavy metal-ers are a hell of a pair; wise beyond their stupidity with great chemistry. Willy, too, is an enjoyable and odd addition to the mix. Upon first seeing him at the film’s opening, I feared matters would be gimmicky, like an attempt at replicating the Caddyshack gopher. However, Willy’s a fun hero. His monologues are entertaining, and State Park sticks mostly to camp hijinks and debauchery while weaving in his good-hearted mission.
Between wacky characters and decent jokes, State Park works just fine as a merry escape for 80s comedy lovers. What leads me to mark it as more special than just that is its feel. Directors Kerry Feltham and Rafal Zielinksi aim for light and achieve it to a noteworthy degree. State Park feels amazingly innocent for being naughty, and rather weird despite being conventional. It’s a warm, boozy getaway with an almost vaporwave soundtrack to match. Everything’s harmless. The bad guys are stupid. When you think the story may take a dark turn, it doesn’t. State Park’s remote setting, campy atmosphere, and early moments almost foreshadow slasher territory, but that of course isn’t the case. It’s pure fun.
Comedy filmmakers of the 80s couldn’t go wrong with the idea, “Let’s cram horny teenagers, eccentric old people, and white collar douchebags into a remote, gorgeous setting and let silliness unfold.” State Park isn’t masquerading as anything greater than that basic premise. It’s what you would expect to see based solely on a glance at the movie poster, but more charming and perhaps funnier. I can’t say State Park should have a cult fanbase, but anyone who appreciates an 80s escape owes themselves this mild, goofy time capsule of a caper. You can check out State Park on Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms.
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