Film Review: Pump Up the Volume (1990)

Release Date: August 22nd, 1990
Directed by: Allan Moyle
Written by: Allan Moyle
Music by: Cliff Martinez, various
Cast: Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, Scott Paulin, Ellen Greene, Mimi Kennedy, Ahmet Zappa, Seth Green

SC Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Do you ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely fucked up?” – Mark

Yes, Mark… I do.

Although, it’s infinitely more fucked up than it was in 1990 and that year seems like a much, much better time to be alive than 2021. However, I get the sentiment now, as I did back then and a lot of what was wrong then, gave birth to the extreme bullshit we have to live with now.

Wow! Jesus! I went on a tangent there. Let me stick to reviewing the film and not go too deeply down the dark, hopeless 2020s rabbit hole.

Pump Up the Volume was a favorite film of mine for a few years after it came out. Granted, I had just entered middle school in 1990 and wasn’t quite the age of a high schooler when this came out but it did have a fairly profound influence on me, as did many other coming-of-age Generation-X flicks of the era.

In 1990, we were exiting the opulent “everything is fine” 1980s and entering into the peak Gen-X decade, which brought grunge and a cultural edginess to the table where PC culture was vehemently shunned by the youth, unlike the complete 180 we’ve got in the 2020s. But there I go again, trashing this dumb decade.

Anyway, Christian Slater’s Mark was kind of a stand-in for the average person in this movie’s audience. He was awkward, unsure about himself, had a hard time expressing his thoughts face-to-face but discovered his voice through his creativity and anonymity. And what he expressed was a lot of the thoughts and sentiments of his generation, going into a seemingly bleak and potentially pointless future where what’s been mapped out for you might not be what’s best for you.

Most importantly, the film shows that teen angst and the insecurity about moving into adulthood isn’t just a generational issue. But hey, at least back then, the kids questioned the state and mainstream society’s narratives and attempts at control.

All that being said, this might be a difficult movie for new and modern fans to connect with. I think it defines my generation pretty well for its time but some of the movie may be seen as too farfetched or cheesy through modern eyes. And honestly, some of Mark’s rants may seem childish and immature but that doesn’t mean that they’re not genuine and a reflection of what kids were thinking at the time.

Pump Up the Volume is a weird time capsule into the minds of Gen-Xers being pushed into adulthood by their Baby Boomer parents who grew up with very different priorities and values. This encapsulates that generational clash quite well and I say that as someone who lived through these things and had similar issues with parents and authority. Despite their best interests, I knew that what was best for them was not necessarily what was best for me.

I’ll probably always love this movie because of all the points I just outlined, even if, yes, it does come off as a bit cheesy and dated in many regards. Still, its heart and soul comes across as pure and Christian Slater absolutely gives one of his best performances.

Side note: I still adore the hell out of Samantha Mathis in this.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other more serious coming of age movies from the Gen-X era.

Film Review: Ready to Rumble (2000)

Also known as: Untitled Wrestling Movie (working title), Head Lock Go! Go! Professional Wrestling (Japanese English title)
Release Date: April 5th, 2000 (premiere)
Directed by: Brian Robbins
Written by: Steven Brill
Based on: World Championship Wrestling
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan, Bill Goldberg, Rose McGowan, Diamond Dallas Page, Joe Pantoliano, Martin Landau, Ahmet Zappa, Jill Ritchie, Caroline Rhea, Lewis Arquette, Kathleen Freeman, Steve “Sting” Borden, Bam Bam Bigelow, Randy Savage, Booker T, Sid “Vicious” Eudy, Juventud Guerrera, Curt Hennig, Disco Inferno, Billy Kidman, Konnan, Rey Misterio, Perry Saturn, Prince Iaukea, Van Hammer, Michael Buffer, Gene Okerlund, Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Charles Robinson, Billy Silverman, The Nitro Girls, John Cena (uncredited)

Bel Air Entertainment, Outlaw Productions, Tollin/Robbins Productions, World Championship Wrestling, 107 Minutes

Review:

“Just cause it’s your dream doesn’t make it right or noble or whatever! Charles Manson was following his dream! Joseph Stalin, Michael Bolton, you get my point?” – Mr. Boggs

When this came out in 2000, I didn’t bother to see it. It didn’t matter that I was a wrestling fan or that WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was promoting the shit out of it. The movie just looked terrible beyond belief and well, frankly, movies with major wrestlers in them were never good, at least up until this point. Thanks for fixing that, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

I finally caught this on TV a year or two later because I was trapped at home with my car in the shop, Uber didn’t yet exist, and there was nothing on in the afternoon other than soap operas, lame game shows and even lamer talk shows. So I gave in and watched this unfunny and bizarre turd.

Now I don’t want to sound like I’m just being mean and shitting on a shitty film for the sake of being an asshole. It’s just a bad fucking movie and that’s mostly because it was written by someone who doesn’t know a damn thing about wrestling. If they do, the script and the story doesn’t show it and it’s almost insulting for those who have a love for this stuff.

Frankly, professional wrestling was treated like a joke. I get that this is a comedy movie but that doesn’t mean that you don’t do your research and try to give the audience something more authentic. Look at Slap Shot, a movie about hockey that is, at times, batshit crazy. Yet, it respects the sport and it doesn’t insult the fans of it by being written by someone just writing about what they think hockey is about, as opposed to someone who actually knew because she spent a season traveling with her brother’s team, an experience that led to her writing the Slap Shot script.

I don’t know how the wrestlers in this weren’t furious and insulted. I don’t know how they didn’t have meltdowns on the set about how stupid and inaccurate the script was in regards to something that was their beloved profession. Granted, I’m sure they were held hostage by their contracts and had more mouths to feed other than their own but the actual wrestlers had to see the writing on the wall with this shit show.

Now all that being said, I can’t hate on David Arquette or Scott Caan for being in this. They both really tried to make the best out of it and Arquette is a lifelong wrestling fan that probably signed on to this with some enthusiasm. I hope he didn’t see how bad the script was until after he signed the dotted line though because I’d rather hope that he just got hoodwinked.

But the effects of this movie were so bad that it led to Arquette legitimately becoming the WCW World Heavyweight Champion in real life, something he was apprehensive about and felt disrespected the talent that spent their entire adult lives training for the spot that was handed to him just to help market a shit movie. The tactic massively backfired and the Arquette incident is a major factor in what led to WCW permanently shutting its doors a year later.

As for the movie, it’s terribly unfunny. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense and it makes wrestling look stupid as hell. The whole thing is a caricature of what it’s supposed to represent, written as if it were some asshole’s personal take on something he didn’t even give a shit about in the first place.

I honestly feel bad for the people in this film. And while I like Brian Robbins as a comedic actor, as a director, this is the equivalent of him volunteering to wear a dunce cap made out of excrement.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: really, really shitty ’90s and ’00s buddy comedies.