• Johnny Be Good

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: June 23rd, 2015
    Director: Bud Smith
    Cast: Anthony Michael Hall, Uma Thurman, Robert Downey, Jr.
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie

    This late 80s comedy was the sole directorial effort from cinematic everyman Bud Smith, who wore such hats as producer, editor and second unit director on such notable films as The Karate Kid, Sorcerer and Cat People. Johnny Be Good sees Smith in charge of the whole shoot 'n sha-bang, however, with the end results being a bit schizophrenic in terms of tone and performance, but overall quite fun, lighthearted and enjoyable.

    The film follows a young, hot shot high school quarterback by the name of Johnny Walker-a very charming and likeable Anthony Michael Hall-who happens to be fielding a wealth of impressively lucrative deals from a bevy of interested colleges. Smith opens the film with a hilarious scene back in the team's locker room, where their head coach-played with suitable slime by Breakfast Club actor Paul Gleason-pumps up his players with a monologue full of foul language and false modesty. Afterwards, the supporting cast is introduced, which features a number of other Hollywood notables early on in their career, including Uma Thurman-in her first role as Walker's girlfriend-Jennifer Till and Robert Downey, Jr., cast as Hall's best friend and teammate.

    It must be said that Downey, Jr. almost derails the whole production with a performance that is manic in its energy, but unfocused, grating and impossibly obnoxious. The actor is incessantly chatty and mugging for the camera; a vibe which is somewhat shared by Hall here, but reigned in enough by the actor to get him through as a relatively likeable hero, even when the promise of fortune and fame begin to take their toll on the starry-eyed football star.

    Speaking of football stars, a couple of real life sports heroes make humorous cameo appearances here, including famed sportscaster Howard Cosell and former Chicago Bears bad boy Jim McMahon, whose scene late in the film is a perfect approximation of McMahon's high profile back in the 1980s. Indeed, that inimitable feeling of 80s zaniness and coke-fueled energy is all over this thing, as Walker's major decision of living an honest life playing for State college versus the glitz, glamour and money of moving away for one of the deals out on the table is put to a head, while in the process pitting Walker against his friend, sweetheart and family as he begins to lose sight of himself as a player and person.

    Smith should've tightened his grip on this aspect of the story early on, however, for any true dilemma for Walker doesn't really rear its head until quite late in the film's brisk 86 minute running time. Before that, most of Johnny Be Good is spent episodically following Hall and Downey, Jr. as they get into trouble and explore all of the vices offered by the college recruiters banging on Walker's door. Meanwhile, an NCAA investigator, unbeknownst to them, is following their every move, played-as a fun side note-by Robert Downey, Sr.!

    Small faults aside, however, Johnny Be Good is a funny, rompy 80s comedy with a nice satirical slant to its script. It's a nicely balanced piece between 80s nostalgia and a fact of college sporting life which continues to affect high school athletes to this very day.


    Olive Films' Blu-Ray of Johnny Be Good looks great. Colors are bright and nicely saturated, with no noticeable damage, artifacting or compression issues. The film was previously released on a standard definition DVD from MGM, but sees a significant upgrade here in terms of video quality. The audio is also clear and nicely balanced between the character dialogue and the film's rockin' 80s soundtrack, which includes Judas Priest's legendarily divisive cover of the titular theme song.

    There are no extras, as per usual, to be found on this Olive Films release, but-given the comparative scarcity of the original MGM disc-this is still a very solid release, up to the company's usual AV standards.

    The Final Word

    Johnny Be Good has aged surprisingly well. It's great to see these young Hollywood stars early on in their career, and the story-despite some scatterbrained ideas and conveniently squashed plot devices towards the back end-is engaging enough to keep an audience engaged and smiling along right to the film's quintessentially 80s conclusion. Fun stuff.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I have this one in my Netflix cue. Haven't seen it in yers.