Tom Cruise, Shelley Long and Jackie Earl Haley Head to Tijuana in Bawdy Teen Comedy.



“When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.”

That’s one Bob Dylan’s timeless lines in his immortal song, “Like a Rolling Stone”.  Around the turn of the millennium, Dylan worked with director Curtis Hanson, contributing the song “Things Have Changed” to Hanson’s film, Wonder Boys.  Though “Things Have Changed” went on to win an Oscar for Best Original Song, it was no “Like a Rolling Stone”.  Yet, it could be made to harken back to the beginning of Hanson’s career, declaring, “People are crazy and times are strange”.  

Well before the late Curtis Hanson would become known for making loftier films such as Wonder Boys and the Eminem vehicle, 8 Mile, not to mention his masterpiece, L.A. Confidential, he was just another struggling director with nothin’ to lose.  With a decade of big screen horror and comedic martial arts dreck on his resume, it seems as though the filmmaker’s options were becoming more limited, not less.  So for his eventual next one, Hanson hit the road, opting for one well travelled at that time: the horny teenager comedy.  With him went a carload of young dudes, an up-and-coming bunch, also with nothing to lose.  Well… maybe one thing that they’re quite determined to lose!  The film?  Losin’ It.  The destination?  Seedy 1965 Tijuana, Mexico… portrayed convincingly enough by Calexico, California.  The verdict?  Pleasurable, if not mind blowing.

Before Tom Cruise was making all the right moves as a leading man, he was a supporting presence in teen movies, playing guys with names like David (Taps), Billy (Endless Love), and Steve (The Outsiders).  In Losin’ It, he portrays the potentially unfortunately named Woody, an earnest young virgin just looking to score. Woody is as close as this foursome of fellas has to a conscious.  Dave, played by Jackie Earl Haley, is, by contrast, raw, stupid libido.  Dave’s little brother, Wendel (John P. Navin, Jr.) is a middle-school venture capitalist who’s in it for a different kind of fireworks: actual fireworks.  Finally, there’s the athletic outcast Spider (John Stockwell), who just might be the brains of this outfit.  (As much brains as any sex-focused young guy might muster).  Loaded and ready in Dave’s dad’s gleaming ‘57 Chevy, their Tijuana jaunt for prostitutes is what amounts to their own heroes journey.  Not exactly classic Joseph Campbell, but this is what guys did in early 1980s b-comedies such as this.  Together, they spend far more time unable to  lose an angry corrupt sheriff (Henry Darrow) than they do actually losin’ it.

Along for the ride is Shelley Long, then the freshly-minted co-lead of the struggling network comedy, Cheers.  Long plays Kathy, a married woman at the end of her rope.  Kathy is dead set on a quickie “Tijuana divorce”, an in-and-out affair contingent only on a rubber stamp from a judge back home.  Long, the fluttering heart of this otherwise bawdy and boyish outing,  is nothing short of adorable.  She singlehandedly brings more to her role than any of the guys manage.

Now on Blu-ray thanks to the high-def fairy godmothers and godfathers at Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Losin’ It is nonetheless a mixed bag in the A/V department.  At times it could pass for old VHS, other times it appears unmistakably fresh.  For a movie that’s already been around the block several times in terms of home video releases, it’s odd that this new and latest release offers zero on the way of bonus features (sans trailers for other horny teenager movies that KLSC has to offer). 

It’s been said that the early 1980s was Hollywood’s “golden age of movie nudity”, and Losin’ It certainly has its share.  It’s all strip clubs and scuzzy brothels, but the flesh quota- apparently so mandatory in a time when ridding one’s self of the oh-so-dread affliction of virginity was more than once the basis for an entire film- is checked of handily in this R-rated, somewhat funny comedy.  The bottom line, if there is one, is that these young dudes with nothin’ used to have nothin’ to lose… but things have changed.