R, 1 hr. 39 min. Directed by: Paul Brickman. Release Date: August 5, 1983. DVD Release Date: August 27, 1997.
As much as I love 80s movies, you’d think I would have had this movie come across my path at some point prior to today. I knew the basic story of the movie before I sat down and watched it. Thanks to someone’s Halloween costume, I knew about the scene where he’s dancing in a button down shirt and his underwear. I knew about the train scene because I had way too many pervy friends in high school. Seeing this now, it’s weird thinking about Tom Cruise this young. Lord knows, he’s aging better than I will and certainly looks better than me, but he couldn’t pull off the whole innocence thing anymore, and his character in this movie relies on it. Another thing I noticed is how much more prominent his teeth are in this movie than they seem now. I remember Cruise was all about the smile, and that seems to have toned down somehow, I’m guessing some dental work was involved.
I liked this story. There are some traditional coming-of-age elements in the story, and we’re basically watching Joel Goodson (Tom Cruise) decide who he’s going to be as a man. Joel has a pretty start in life. He comes from an upper-middle class family and he’s trying to decide which of his college options to pursue. There’s no question that he won’t go to college. No one is worried about paying for tuition bills. He makes some horrific errors in judgment, largely due to a case of raging hormones, manages to fix the problems he’s caused, and on that path, he learns about himself and life. He’s wound way too tightly, and he’s come to realize that somewhere between too tight and not at all is a good place to be. I also like that at the end of this day, this isn’t an entirely happy ending. He gets away with a TON of stuff, but things happen that were beyond his control; he wasn’t able to fix everything. You know, how most of our lives work? If you ignore the details, this sounds like the life story of any guy I know… well, most of the guys I know. There are still a few running around out there trying to figure out what being an adult is about, but for the most part, we knock this process out somewhere between high school and college. But, at the end of the day, this is really the story of a boy and his hooker. I teared up a bit when I came to that realization.
Risky Business was billed as a comedy, and I think it fails at that. Sure, it’s funny, but not consistently, and there’s nothing funny or silly about the characters or their situations. It has some of the same elements as Ferris Bueler’s Day Off, but Ferris was obviously leading the charge of a screwball comedy, and Joel doesn’t seem to have that sense of fun or whimsy about him. This was a good movie. I enjoyed watching it, but I didn’t spend much time laughing. The supporting cast is actually skewed to the comic direction, filled with people who made lots of screwball and off-beat comedies in the 80s, but none of them were really funny, either. Amusing? Yes. Funny? No. There is a difference. I’d watch this again in a cold minute, but not if I was looking for something to pull me out of a funk, or if I’d had a bad day and just really needed a laugh.
If you haven’t seen this, you probably should. This movie, along with All The Right Moves and Top Gun helped solidify Tom Cruise as a pop icon for at least the next thirty years. Chances are that won’t change unless he does something really stupid. In several ways, this is one of Cruise’s better performances, and some of that is because I think some of him (at that age) actually comes through. He’s acting, but there’s a lot of his own personality and feelings coming out as well. He still had to be as unsure of his future at this point as Joel Goodson was… and it shows.