Written by / 5/18/2015 / 1 Comment / , , ,

JUDD NELSON IN 'MAKING THE GRADE'

1984 rating: ***1/2
A year before THE BREAKFAST CLUB made Judd Nelson a star, turning his energetic acting style into a focused study of teenage angst and rebellion, he played a similar character – only his MAKING THE GRADE hero Eddie Keaton break-dances instead of jamming an air guitar Cream riff; in other words, his rebellion is catered strictly for humor. Wild on the streets, he owes a bookie, Dice Man, played by Andrew Clay, and winds up taking the place of a spoiled rich kid: attending a prep school whilst hiding from mobsters.

Judd and Jonna
That’s the plot in a nutshell, and GRADE, within this framework, packs a lot of hit and miss humor as well as likable or fitfully unlikable side-characters, throwing everything into the pot: from pratfalls to one-liners to stereotypes to action scenes, and beyond.

Judd with Carey Scott
No surprise Nelson plays the part with gusto – though sometimes too much. Yet where Eddie’s urban-hip con artist stuck in the fledgling Preparatory academy tries stealing every scene on board, he’s given an ultimately thankless lead to people like Dana Olsen as, technically, the most important person herein...

Judd as Eddie/Palmer
Olsen's Woodrow Palmer is not only a person, but a name with plot significance – for Eddie becomes Palmer as the real Palmer vanishes through the middle of the story, focusing on the misadventures of the school including a cool slob gym teacher Walter Olkewicz; WKRP big guy Gordon Jump as the passive Dean; Scott McGinnis as a conceited jerk; RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Peter Lorrie clone Ronald Lacey as Eddie’s New York buddy; and gorgeous ingĂ©nue Jonna Lee as Tracey Hoover, whose father has a ton of bread, practically owning the school.

Dana Olsen as the real Palmer
So opposites attract… the poor kid and the rich beauty… Only she doesn’t know he’s poor, and his savvy charm makes her smitten almost right off the bat, deleting any genuine chemistry and leading to overlong scenes between the duo.

Corey Scott’s Rand is perhaps the most natural character, a resilient geek and the only student who knows Eddie’s, and Palmer’s, true identities: helping the first become a preppy while keeping the other safe from being sought out. Meanwhile, Nelson combats The Dice Man, who moves in with relatively serious threats, and when Dana Olson’s Bill Murray-like slob returns, GRADE hits an ensemble peak where the eventual turnout matters less than all the fun being had: Which, as we learn at the tail end of the credits, was supposed to result in a sequel called TOURISTA. Maybe because Nelson would hit the Brat Pack stratosphere, outshining any zany Golum/Globus produced followup, it never came to pass. And an important note… While Judd was street savvy here and in BREAKFAST CLUB, during the same time he played a dork “weenie” in an early Kevin Costner road flick, FANDANGO, showing his eclectic range as an actor – who, later on, turned out to be an underrated, underused one at that.
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