As a child of the ’80s, I’m inordinately excited about the new “Top Gun: Maverick” summer blockbuster. Why? I’m not getting a cut of ticket sales and to be perfectly honest, I’m not really even much of a Tom Cruise fan. I’ve always thought the original was cheesy in an over-the-top way, but still saw it in theaters multiple times.
There’s just something so ’80s about “Top Gun” that its long-awaited sequel has me contemplating growing my mullet back and wearing sleeveless Ocean Pacific T-shirts again. Where are my Sun Britches?!
The popularity of the new “Top Gun” feels like a redemption of sorts for a decade that started being ridiculed the moment it ended. Those of us who grew up in the ’80s probably make more fun of it than anyone else, but it’s just a defense mechanism. We know there’s no way to explain the break dancing, shoulder pads and Culture Club.
But “Maverick” is giving me the same feeling I used to get when I’d go pick the kids up from a school dance and the last song was “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Our dances always ended with Journey as well, but usually it was “Faithfully” or another slow one so you could sway back and forth with your arms wrapped around some poor girl in a Frankenstein-like dance before their daddies whisked them away. Journey still being cool — regardless of the song — gives me hope for the cheesy, much-maligned decade in which I came of age.
Nostalgia for all things ’80s is normal among geezers and geezers in waiting who relive some part of their youth via songs and movies of that era. But children of the ’80s have been ridiculed for so long for our bizarre hairstyles, weird music and strange clothes, that it’s a relief to go to the new “Top Gun” movie and see teens and people in their early 20s cheering on ol’ Maverick the way we did in the glory years.
The new “Top Gun” delivers all the ’80s bravado of the original, although they appear to have run out of inspiration when it came to the pilots’ call signs. One poor guy had to be “Fan Boy” throughout the movie. What a disappointment that must have been to get the script and find out he was going to play “Fan Boy.” Call signs notwithstanding, the movie delivers every bit of cheesy hokum you could possibly hope for. If you’re wishing for something unexpected, you’d be more likely to find it in the latest “Jurassic Park.” (Yes, more dinosaurs chasing the same people.)
But this got me thinking the ’80s still have more to offer during this redemption tour. There are plenty of other ’80s classics that didn’t get the sequels they so richly deserved. It’s time for them to get their due.
Here are a few ideas Hollywood should jump on while ’80s nostalgia runs hot:
“ET 2: iPhone Home” — ET is back, older, wiser and with even crustier-looking skin. He falls in love with Kelly McGillis — who was completely hosed from “Maverick” — a NASA scientist who has identified a hostile alien race attracted to Earth by the spread of 5G telephone technology.
ET puts together several random household items and constructs a jamming device that tricks the hostile aliens into attacking Venus where they are overcome by toxic gas in the atmosphere. ET becomes an international hero, marries Kelly and goes on to hawk his new skincare line called “No More Ouch” on the “Drew Barrymore Show.”
“Urbaner Cowboy ” — We find Bud and Sissy (John Travolta and Debra Winger) 42 years later having moved up to a double-wide trailer in a slightly less seedy part of Houston. Their 38-year-old son, Junior, is living with them and going through a rough time after being laid off. Bud Sr. and Sissy get into one of their famous screaming matches after Junior sits on the couch all day watching “Judge Judy,” prompting Bud to storm out with Junior in tow to find adventure.
But since Gilley’s was torn down in 2005, they wind up at a Waffle House. After dancing in front of the jukebox for a while, Bud tries riding Junior like a mechanical bull and they’re kicked out. “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places” plays over a montage of Bud and Junior looking lonely.
Meanwhile, Sissy’s brief affair with a prisoner she met while he was cleaning up trash along the highway ends with a convenience store robbery. Everything winds up on a happy note, though, when Junior gets called back to work and Bud and Sissy once again realize nobody else would want them.
“Fifty-Four Candles” — Yes, it’s once again Samantha Baker’s birthday and nobody remembers, even her husband, Long Duk Dong. This time, it’s a retirement party for her spoiled sister Ginny that’s overshadowing Sam’s big day. The directors go for a twofer in this John Hughes tribute by also dragging in cast members from “The Breakfast Club,” who break down in tears remembering how their cruel parents didn’t celebrate their birthdays either.
“Ferris Bueller Stops Working” — Matthew Broderick reprises the rascally Ferris Bueller as a man in his mid-50s who’s sick of employment. Tired of simply calling in sick or leaving work early when the boss isn’t looking, Ferris searches for a way to live his mantra that “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Ferris becomes part of “The Great Resignation” and spends his days living off unemployment, getting drunk at a local bar and driving his golf cart to the old folks’ home to mess with Mr. Rooney. He manages to talk his best friend Cameron into quitting his job, too, and Ferris’ angry sister spends most of her time trying to get his unemployment cut off.
“Riskier Business” — Cruise is back to reprise another one of his ’80s classics, playing the crafty Joel. Reflecting modern sentiments, Joel’s prostitution ring is raided by federal agents and he’s prosecuted for sex trafficking.
This one may not have the crowd appeal of “Maverick.”
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