DVD Review - First Period

Brandon Alexander III (left) and Dudley Beene
I agree with some who have said that the latest feature by Charlie Vaughn is "if John Waters directed a John Hughes movie." It's a perfect and highly accurate, concise description of what's on display here. Vaughn himself even says this movie is a "love letter to the culty films of John Waters." This is apparent in the cross-dressing protagonists and homoerotic subtext. The John Hughes aspect comes in more superficial ways, such as the fact that the whole thing is a high school comedy, set in the 1980's with fashion inspired by Hughes' actors like Molly Ringwold.

Brandon Alexander III stars as Cassie Glenn, a 15-year-old teenage girl who is starting at a new school, possibly in California. She's a week away from her sweet 16 and she's desperate to make friends. She's actually even more desperate to become popular. She's not lacking in self-esteem and confidence, or ego and vanity, despite her plus-size. Every time she introduces herself, she always drops the tagline, "totally, rockin' superstar extraordinaire, you're welcome!" She loves Dracula and is possibly a future Twilight fan. She's also at times very sexually provocative.

Dudley Beene co-stars as Maggie Miller, a fellow teen girl who is personality-wise the opposite of Cassie. She's not out-going at all. She's shy and socially awkward. She's teased for her appearance. She's called "coat rack" and "turd face." She has a crush on her sex-education teacher and she likes to rap. She doesn't just listen to rap music. Maggie actually likes to spit rhymes, as some would say.

The movie has a very eclectic, supporting cast. Starting with the actors playing the adults, Cassandra Peterson plays Cassie's mom who is loving but somewhat ditzy. Some might recall Peterson as her long-running Movie Macabre character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Jack Plotnick plays the sexist, sex-ed teacher Mr. Klein who presides over the all-girls class. Klein seems absolutely not qualified, but like Alexander and Beene, Plotnick is no stranger to cross-dressing. Plotnick did so in Girls Will Be Girls (2003).

There's also Tara Karsian who plays Ms. Wood, the guidance counselor. Diane Salinger plays Ms. Mallow, a redheaded, hippie art teacher and Judy Tenuta plays Madame Mulva, the psychic who offers Cassie and Maggie advice. All, if not most of these characters get one scene to infuse some wacky or quirky humor.

The younger actors who get the most screen time other than Alexander and Beene are the four who play Cassie and Maggie's teenage rivals. Michael Turchin, the painter who recently married Lance Bass, plays Dirk who looks like Jason Priestley and Luke Perry's love-child but is also the movie's bonafide and shameless, shirtless eye-candy. Leigh Wakeford plays Brett, the tall, blonde preppie who could be Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Zack Morris' evil twin. Lauren Rose Lewis and Karli Kaiser play the two Heathers who literally could have been pulled from the film Heathers (1988).

Brandon Alexander III also wrote the screenplay here, and he certainly references Heathers in an off-handed comment about a murder plot. Given all the revelry in the 80's, it was almost unavoidable. Directed by Charlie Vaughn (Vampire Boys and Saltwater), the 80's hair and fashion pop to the forefront and screams at the screen. This movie can also be put on a growing list of films this past decade that pay homage to the 80's in one way or another.

Alexander is a comedy writer who has worked for TV and magazines. This is his first feature script, and it's noted that this movie is "destined to be a cult classic... or... offending everyone." This is true, as I was unsure about a joke that Alexander delivers where he does a Bill Cosby impression, confusing him for Whoopi Goldberg. The movie premiered in the summer of 2013 before the Cosby scandal broke, so curbing your offense, at least some of your offense might be required.

Or, like me, it might be best simply to embrace the offensive humor for what it is and let it wash over you. There are plenty of one-liners, innuendo and gags to keep the audience giggling or at least smiling with every line of dialogue, making it true, non-stop comedy. I hate to spoil any jokes but two of my favorite were Cassie calling Pac-Man gay because he eats balls and Maggie doing a rap battle with John, a younger, sexier version of the Fresh Prince, played by Adrian Burks, in a cool rip-off of Teen Witch (1989).

One recent film, like this one, that pays homage to the 80's is the musical Eternity: The Movie (2014). That film had a lot of gay subtext. Unlike the musical, this movie has that subtext rise to the level of actual text. If anyone remembers the characters of Yo Yo and Provoloney from Charles Busch's Psycho Beach Party (2001), there is a parallel situation that occurs here.

I was also briefly reminded of the comedy Strangers With Candy, the film version where Amy Sedaris jumps Chris Pratt. Alexander takes the opportunity to jump Turchin. Cassie expresses her over-the-top sexuality and is blocked but ends up making a friend. It's almost a perfect summation of the arc of this movie.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains mature and crude language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.
Available now on Amazon and iTunes.
Available on DVD on April 21.

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