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CAMERON CROWE IGNITES MORE HIGH TIMES W/ 'THE WILD LIFE'

Ilan-Mitchell Smith in The Wild Life YEAR: 1984
THE WILD LIFE, an underrated and unappreciated for being relatively obscure and unknown teen sex comedy, directed by Art Linson and written by FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH creator Cameron Crowe, has a somewhat facetious title...

EVH mixing TWL
Although two of the main characters — Chris Penn as Tom Drake, channeling Sean’s Jeff Spicoli in jock form, and future WEIRD SCIENCE actor Ilan-Mitchell Smith as stoner kid Jim Conrad — are rebellious enough, the buried lead goes to Jim’s big brother Bill, who, played by Eric Stoltz, moves into an apartment complex for his twenty-something independence...

Christopher Penn aka Chris Penn
For the most part, the "wild" in the title becomes something to avoid more than embrace but not for long because, after Tom, who works with Bill at the local bowling alley, moves in to share the rent, the pad becomes a dilapidated and eventually partying-till-you-drop hangout. Meanwhile, Bill's ex girlfriend Anita, played by Lea Thompson, is a mousy donut store employee having an affair with a muscular, married cop (BREAKING AWAY bully Hart Bochner). And poor put-upon Bill simply gets no thrill out of life, wild or otherwise...

Chris Penn fixes up/takes down
Unlike little brother Jim, who confidently wanders town with a ghetto blaster in hand, a cigarette dangling from scowling lips and most importantly, being a fan of APOCALYPSE NOW and friends with a real vet, he's entranced by the Vietnam War.

Another Penn pothead
During the late 70s/early 80s, with an exception to OVER THE EDGE, not many films have heavy metal youths in the forefront. Shaggy, loaded teens were prominent in schools and suburban neighborhoods throughout America, yet their role in cinema was mostly peripheral

And on the flipside is Bill's ex, Lea Thompson’s Anita, the melancholy victim of one-dimensional puppy love, overshadowed by Jenny Wright as Eileen, working at a trendy New Wave boutique and, while dodging the advances of her dorky boss, keeps at arm’s length with Penn’s persistent Tom, seeking her hand in marriage while drinking beer or trying to buy some with a fake ID, smoking pot, partying at a seedy strip club, and making a real mess of everything he touches...

THE WILD LIFE Rates: ****
Perhaps the most important element is the awesome soundtrack by Edward Van Halen, providing instrumental hard rock tracks, equally funky and soulful. This is one of the few times you’ll hear the iconic guitar god jamming, sans a strutting blond lead singer (you choose) at the forefront. The devilish riffs especially befit Jim’s head-banger odyssey...

Signed by Ilan-Mitchell Smith
After all, he’s the one who’d probably spend quality time listening to Roth-era Van Halen on his bedroom stereo...

Although Eric Stoltz and Chris Penn play cool cats, neither are strong enough to carry the picture, making their opposing synergy that much more dynamic. An Oscar/Felix relationship sheds light on each persona, tugging the apartment in a wishbone fashion – unfortunately for Bill and luckily for us, the partying Tom ultimately wins, somewhat.

We’ve all known obnoxious guys like Chris Penn's Tom Drake (in those FOOTLOOSE days, Chris billed as Christopher Penn) and have felt vulnerable, used-up and stepped-upon like poor Bill (who Drake calls "The Bill Man"), making this movie less WILD and more underdog relatable… And while Crowe’s classic FAST TIMES is much funnier and complete, LIFE is breezier and, to coin Tom Drake’s favorite word, way more casual: subtly borrowing from the sex comedy template without having to force-push the envelope.
Ron Wood cameo in THE WILD LIFE
Eric "The Bill Man" Stoltz hangs with Chris "It's Casual" Penn outside the lanes in THE WILD LIFE
Cari Anne Warder as Julie (Jim's cute blonde crush) in THE WILD LIFE
Ilan-Mitchell Smith with buddy Brin Berliner THE WILD LIFE
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