Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2012) – Directed by Kevin O’Neill – Starring Jena Sims, Ryan Merriman, Treat Williams, Sasha Jackson, Olivia Alexander, Ted Raimi, Mary Woronov, Sean Young, Angelina Armani, John Landis, and Roger Corman.
Let’s talk about the intersection of fun and nudity and commerce.
In my last review, I lamented the nearly complete lack of fun exhibited by Asylum’s Bigfoot.
That is not a problem with the Roger Corman-produced ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT CHEERLEADER. He knows why you’re tuning – you want to see a fun, ridiculous comedy about a nerdy coed who takes a drug, becomes a knock-out, and grows to fifty feet tall.
And shows her boobs.
I’m going to be honest on the last point – the movie doesn’t need it and as I get a bit older and know the hows and whys its included, it becomes a bit less fun to see young actresses taking off their tops for a shot at fame in a movie that is fun enough on its own. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying here – the discomfort comes not from nudity because I’m all for people taking their clothes off, but there is a microscopic thin line between schoolboy fantasy and cheeky sexism. There’s something a little … lecherous? skeevy? unnecessary? … about seeing actresses who haven’t fully made it in the business getting naked in a Z-movie that I don’t enjoy watching as much as I used to.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy strip clubs – as much as I like looking at naked women, I can never get past the exchange that’s taking place. I haven’t earned the privilege of seeing the nudity – I’ve paid for it. Similarly, it’s likely that the stripper likely doesn’t want to show me her body as much as she wants access to my cash. I’m not making a moral judgment here as much as I am making a decision based on my own particular hang-ups concerning financial transactions. I’m sure the women in ATTACK willingly agreed to make this exchange, and one of my operating philosophies is that everyone has a right to do what they want with their own bodies, so ultimately if they’re willing to reveal it, I’m willing to take a look, but it is 2013. I’d be more comfortable with the existence of films like this if the filmmakers were just as willing to show some sausage. I’m cool with the objectification working both ways.
That would pass for progress in the Z-movie world, yes?
Besides, we have the internet now, where you are a few clicks of your keyboard from seeing all manner of nudity. ATTACK contains a bit of cinematic irony in that one of the actresses in the movie is a former pornographic actress (Angelina Armani) who doesn’t get naked, while our protagonist and antagonist do. There’s something to be said for young actresses trying to make their way in the business taking their tops off, while a fellow young actress who’s moving past a career where she took everything off, stays clothed. They’re all beautiful, they’re all adults, and they can make their own decisions, but I wonder to what extent, in 2013, movies like this are really served by including nudity? Does that really make them more profitable?
I guess it does, or they wouldn’t do it, but if ATTACK didn’t have the nudity would less people really be interested in watching it?
Because as I said, ATTACK really doesn’t need it. This is a surprisingly fun film. It’s a hoot seeing people like Treat Williams, Ted Raimi, John Landis, and Roger Corman coming in and just having a good time. None of them think they’re making anything more than a fun B-movie, and if you can’t smile at Treat Williams playing a corporate scumbag saying, “I think my aorta just crapped its pants,” well, then there’s no reason to even give ATTACK a spin.
Nerdy Cassie Stratford (Jena Sims, who looks like a young Elisabeth Shue) wants to try out for the cheering squad because her mom (Sean Young) wants Cassie to be more like she was when she was a kid. Which presumably means: be a cheerleader, f*ck Kevin Costner in the back of a limo, and break into Tim Burton’s office dressed as Catwoman. Cassie is a brilliant scientist, but she’s also got zits on her face and wears big glasses, so obviously she sucks at being a cheerleader. When she tries out for the cheer squad, head cheerleader Brittany (Olivia Alexander) is totally mean to her because head cheerleaders either have to be a total b*tch or Kirsten Dunst.
She’s working on a scientific formula with Kyle (Ryan Merriman) and under the oversight of Dr. Higgs (Ted Raimi). Treat Williams is providing the funding in the hopes of finding a way to make people healthier by reasons of scientific mumbo jumbo. Seeing positive, albeit early, results on the lab rat, Cassie decides to inject the formula, and the result is that she becomes ridiculously hot, good at cheerleading, and a bit of a b*tch.
Movies like ATTACK revel in recycling old formulas and types, of course, so if you’re hot, you kinda have to be a b*tch. What’s unfortunate is that when we get to the end of the movie and our super tall Cassie and Brittany get shrunken back down by having the formula neutralized, Cassie still gets to remain hot while Brittany has to end up about 3 feet tall. It’s a cheap shot and while the moral of the story is a good one – that if you are yourself you’re rewarded and if you’re a b*tch you’re punished – it’s not a fun punishment to see Brittany reduced to a physical joke in front of her teammates.
Cassie’s journey from nerd to giant to normative hottie is a fun trip, though. My issues with the way nudity is used here aren’t enough to detract from the enjoyment. ATTACK is the kind of movie I used to hope would come on “Skinemax” when I was 15 and it was 2:30 in the morning, and so I suppose the film gets some bonus nostalgia points, but are 15 year old kids watching pay cable really the audience here? I wish we had gotten more of a relationship between Kyle and Jett (Sasha Jackson), because they’re the best parts of the film and while Cassie is busy getting tall and caring only about herself, they’re actually concerned about her.
I wish more professional critics would review and appreciate movies like ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT CHEERLEADER. The Z-movie is as much a part of the 2013 movie industry as foreign art house films, and it’s nice to see that at 86, Roger Corman can still produce a schoolboy fantasy that’s this much fun.