Monday, May 4, 2009

Lookin' to Get Out (1982)

Directed by Hal Ashby. I have a sneaking suspicion that "Lookin' to Get Out" is the reason Angelina Jolie refuses to speak to Jon Voight, the film's star. It's best part is the closing theme, not just because hearing it means you are done watching this hunk of poo, but also because it is my very favorite kind of movie theme.

I realized this back in 1992 seeing "My Cousin Vinny" with high school buddy Dano at the Crest discount movie theater in Seattle. The movie ends with the kind of generic boogie-woogie blues romp that you can tell was played by overweight white guys with ponytails, and Dano was moved to improvise his own live vocal over it: "He's my cousin Vinny!/He's my cousin Vinny!/He's used to be a dope but now he's a really good lawyer!" Fortunately there were very few people in the theater, though to his credit, Dano making up lyrics and singing them off the top of his head is as funny as the very idea of Joe Pesci carrying a comedy.

But really, why should he have had to put in even that much effort? Ever since this revelatory moment I appreciate movies that jackhammer the title into their music. This past weekend I saw the first few minutes of "Joysticks," a teen-sex comedy from 1983 that I will watch in small doses because I can tell is going to contain a lot more teen sex than comedy. However, I was pleased that it's opening titles featured a wonderfully generic rock cut featuring the refrain: "Video joystick!/Video joystick!/Video joystick!/Totally awesome video game!"

Anyway! The magnificent closing theme of "Lookin' to Get Out" goes -- over and over and over: "Lookin' to get out!/Lookin' to get out!/Lookin' to get out!" Plus the 1982 drumbeat goes "DOOSH! DOOSH! DOOSH!" like someone in the studio couldn't stop firing a cannon.

Another good part is the decent co-starring performance of Burt Young, an underrated character actor (Curly in "Chinatown" and a zillion other movies though not as Curly) who you would recognize the instant you saw him and didn't seem to get a lot of opportunities to carry a picture.

But the real anchor dragging this ship down is Voight. I don't get this guy at all. Jay Kumar -- college buddy and host of iTunes' popular 'Completely Conspicuous' podcast -- summed it up well when he called Voight "hammy." Voight's characters order lunch with gritted teeth and frantic urgency, they hail taxis by falling to their knees with upturned palms, they express every emotion as if Mr. Blonde just wandered over and cut off an ear. It's exhausting and distracts from everything else on-screen, like an alert beeper on a dumptruck backing up in the room where you watch this.

That said, at least Voight's performance distracts from a plot that begins as hackey before adding complications that make it ridiculous and then adding a romantic sub-plot in an apparent effort to lose anyone still interested.

You will not find "Lookin' to Get Out" available on DVD nor on broadcast TV. Naturally this unavailability makes it very important that you seek it out on second-hand VHS, because if you love movies like I do, you also enjoy looking for rare hammers to bonk yourself on the head with.


  1. WOW -- I might have to watch this just for the song. Also, "Joysticks."

  2. For those too busy for both I'd probably recommend 'Joysticks' over this.