Moving Violations Reviews
Moving Violations is an attempt by the creators of the Police Academy series to copy their cheapo knockoff of 'Stripes', or at least to cash in on a formula that made them a boatload of money the first time: A motely crew led by a wisecracking ne'er-do-well with a heart of gold manages to subert authority and prove their worth all at the same time. Except this time the action is transplanted from a police academy to...traffic school. I gotta say, on paper that doesn't sound half as good as it ended up being-not that it's any kind of masterwork.
The movie begins with our hero receiving the traffic violation that sends him to traffic school- from baddie Keach, natch. The picture on Murray's license is a stilll from 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom', a gag that immediately got me invested in the movie as a kid but I find is still sold well by Murray. A subsequent scene explains how overachiever Keach gets busted down to Traffic School duty on account of Murray's character, sowing the seeds for a 'Stripes'-esques dynamic between teacher and student. The two even square off in a restroom, exactly as in 'Stripes'. After that we are introduced to other supporting players via their own mishaps: Wendie Jo Sperber, Marty McFly's sis in 'Back to the Future'; '80s regular Brian Backer, best known as Ratner in 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High; octegenarian Nedra Volz (from every '80s TV show you've ever seen), whose blindness is played for a running gag that surprisingly works more often than it doesn't thanks to her timing and inflection. Her introduction includes a cameo by Clara "Where's the Beef" Peller, bringing her filmography up to an improbable two. As far as I know, anyway.
The rest of the ensemble we meet once class convenes: Tilly; Fred Willard-whose role as an automotive 'doctor' provides an amusing subplot wherein hypochondriac Sperber misunderstands his occupation; Ned Eisenberg-whose best role was in Walter Hill's underrated take on 'Yojimbo', 'Last Man Standing'- as a horror movie fanatic, in a role that pre-dates Dean Cameron's similar role in 'Summer School' by two years. And some other people who never did anything else.
Various things happen: Backer trysts with an underage girl, not knowing her true age. Sperber visits Willard's automotive 'clinic'. Keach and Sally Kellerman (as a kinky judge) conspire to fail the class in order to keep their cars and sell them for their own personal gain. Murray and Tilly (the ditziest rocket scientist ever, after Denise Richards in 'The World is not Enough') get funky in a NASA zero-g chamber. Some of these things are funny and some of them aren't, but everyone is clearly giving it the old college try. One scene that has always stood out to me is one in which Murray challenges Keach to an arm-wrestling match. The cinematography, the actors, the music-hell, even the weather -it all comes together for just a couple of minutes.
In the end, our rag-tag assemblage triumph over the forces of banality and they get their licenses back. I'm sure that was almost certainly a foregone conclusion for those of you who've read this far, but I just wanted to use the phrase 'forces of banality'. Sounds like a Wall of Voodoo album or something.
So, this an un even comedy marginally brought to life by some gifted comedic actors and a guy shamelessly aping his brother's style (though he does do a damn fine job of it, even bringing some boyish exuberence to the proceedings that the elder Murray typically lacks). All sentimentality aside, I must give this movie 2.5/5 Stars.
If you do happen to see this, though, keep an eye out for the other Oscar winner in the cast: Don Cheadle, credited as 'Juicy Burger Worker'.
The cast is great. Two brothers lead this film. Stacey Keach's real life brother is the bad guy, think of Harris in Police Academy, where he's a cop, but dirty. The lead guy is Bill Murray's younger real life brother, they actually played brothers in SCROOGED. He is so funny and has that same kind of fast wit as Bill.
The rest of the cast involves a confusing Doc in Fred Willard, Marty McFly's sister as a woman that is always sick, a punk hottie(played by April from CRITTERS) and a nerd who molds himself to be with her, a guy that has seen far too many horror films and the funniest old lady I've seen in a film in a long time.
Basically it's like Police Academy 2-3 only in traffic school. Same kind of zaniness.
Oh and Sally Kellerman is great as the Judge. And look out for a bit Don Cheadle sighting.
Sure there's plot holes, but there's so much fun to be had as underachiever Dana Cannon (John Murray) falls in love with spaced-out rocket scientist Amy Hopkins (the lovely Jennifer Tilly), and leads likeable single dad Spencer (Ben Mittleman), hypercondriac Joan (scene-stealing Wendie Jo Sperber), horror buff Wink (Ned Eisenberg), loveable Loretta Houk (Nedra Volz), et. al. against corrupt authority figures Deputy Halik (James Keach) and Judge Henderson (Sally Kellerman) as the scorned stone-faced Deputy Morris (Lisa Hart Carroll) tries to keep her cool.
Lots of laugh-out-loud moments and quotable lines ("Sit down before I mould your face into an ashtray" is a personal favourite) make this a notch above most guilty pleasures.
The quirky and eccentric comedy was made to rest with dust on a shelf. I really believe that when unpopular films are reviewed years later, it offers a glimpse at what was going on during that time. Kinda like a capsule.
There are some laughs here, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first half of the picture. It's prime 80's dumb fun, and I relished the film's complete lack of political correctness and ridiculous casting. Name another movie that would have been better suited for the film debut of Wendy's pitchman Clara Peller. And then there's star John Murray, who is obviously (painfully so) the brother of multi-talented Bill. He's not without some charm of his own, and he is quite liable throughout most of this. The problem is that he looks and sounds so much like his more famous relative that he never really gets the chance to make a name for himself. I think that, combined with the fact that this was a pretty forgettable debut feature, ensured that he would never get cast in another film. He even steals Bill's short, glib and sarcastic comic style.
The marginal fun that caught me off guard in the first half is short-lived, however, and the dumb fun I so enjoyed gives way to just plain dumb. The plot, if you're so bold to call it that, is ridiculous and the romance between Murray and Jennifer Tilly is completely unconvincing. The "lovable losers" start to wear out their welcome. "Moving Violations" makes a game attempt at being so bad that it's actually good. When the dust settles, however, it's just mediocre.
See this film.