"The kids play with their joysticks day in and day out; jerking them back and forth, sweating on them and they don’t even clean them off when they’re through!"
With chicks hanging off each arm, Jeff Bailey (Scott McGinnis) runs River City’s arcade, the local headquarters for teens to get away from their parents and trade quarters for video game action. Other than rare altercations with the moronic punker, King Vidiot (Jon Gries) and his followers, everyone from the cute little rich girl to the hapless nerd to the unkempt fat man get along in perfect harmony amidst the faint glows of the game machines. That is, until bellyacher Rutter (Joe Don Baker) gets a stick up his ass because his young daughter keeps hanging out at this misunderstood establishment he considers a cesspool of depravity. Along with his duo of goofball nephews, they vow to shut down the arcade and bring good moral standing back to the misled youth that video games are tarnishing.
Aimed at a very specific audience, what we have here is pure 80s-era nostalgia and admittedly those who never traded in change for a handful of tokens probably won’t find very much of interest here. Joysticks’ rocky legacy rests predominantly on the fact that it remains the sole teen sex comedy of the 1980s with an arcade being at the center of attention. While the gaming industry did die out for about a five year span in the decade, it’s hard to believe there wasn’t at least one Joysticks-style comedy playing in drive-ins each year. The arcade setting is perfect and for us retro gaming geeks, it doesn’t get any better than this by default, a shame since the shenanigans and exploits aren’t as funny or original as I had hoped. But, those looking to be reminded of the games of Midway, Atari and Taito in the thick of a bevy of naked breasts (and when they’re not fully exposed, they’re poking all over the place), there is just enough entertainment on hand for a good time. I must admit, there is nothing like seeing a big tit hovering in front of an arcade screen.
We’ve been down this road before; it’s basically Porky’s 2 in defence of Pac-Man instead of Shakespeare. Nerdy Eugene (Leif Green) takes a job at the arcade and immediately gets thrown into the whirlwind party of Jeff’s that goes haywire thanks to an overprotective parent who is offended by a couple sets of jugs. Well, that and his airhead 16 year old daughter is fixated on the womanizing, Pajama Party-tossing Jeff, who oddly doesn’t play games at all. If every golf club has its own pro, then this arcade’s expert would be the disgusting Dorfus (Jim Greenleaf), whose main concerns in life are high scores, chilli dogs and breaking wind that would knock Neil Armstrong off the moon. This small troupe of characters seems normal compared to Vidiot and his annoying leather clad, rainbow haired clan of Pac-Man ghost mimicking chicks.
Eventually, Jeff’s troubled past is revealed and the whole town assembles in “The Arena”, a portion of the arcade with massive screens used to settle video game showdowns (on this occasion, a wild game of Super Pac-Man) in front of a live crowd. With the arcade at stake, teens gather to cheer on the hopes of keeping their favorite hang spot alive, while Jeff struggles to come to grips with his past and be able to finally move on with his life. In lieu of the phallic innuendo of the Joysticks themselves (I don’t remember girls getting quite that excited when playing Centipede), the catchy video game obsessed soundtrack, Pac-Man transitions (to hell with fade!); Joysticks is ultimately about coming together for what you believe in and battling your own personal demons. Unfortunately it didn’t do this particularly well, and it was game over for any further arcade sex comedies. (Brett H.)
Tale of the Tape: