Secret Admirer (1985)

15 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

The ‘80s comedy “Secret Admirer” features teenagers and a lot of them, as did “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Porky’s,” “Valley Girl,” “Sixteen Candles,” and a few other titles I could mention (the worst of them being “Porky’s”). But rarely in a movie like this do you see adults who are given the same amount of screen time. In fact, if you split the scenes with the adults and teenagers apart, and then time them, you’d have almost the same length of each. The adults are the parents of the teenaged main character and his crush. They’re here because of a conflict that was the teenagers’ own business in the first place but became something more—something almost tragic. Read on and you’ll see why.

C. Thomas Howell plays Michael, a teenager who has the hots for the popular girl in school Deborah (Kelly Preston, who spends the duration of the film dressing like a slut—the movie’s target audience will love that), who is dating the tough college guy Steve. Michael’s best friend is Toni (Lori Loughlin), and she likes Michael more than a friend. But of course, Michael doesn’t catch on (they never do in these movies). Toni sends Michael a love letter, anonymously, but Michael believes that it’s from Deborah. So he decides to send his own anonymous letter to her and have Toni deliver it to her, much to Toni’s reluctance.

Now I know what you’re thinking. What does this have to do with their parents? Well, Michael’s little brother finds the letter that was written to Michael and brings it to the breakfast table. After he leaves, the mother (Dee Wallace-Stone) finds the letter, reads it, and suspects that her husband (Cliff de Young) may be having an affair. Then one of Michael’s letters to Deborah winds up with Deborah’s parents and each parent (played by Leigh Taylor-Young and Fred Ward) is suspecting that they’re both having an affair with Michael’s parents (de Young is in Taylor-Young’s night class). Then all of the adults are brought together at a bridge party and slapstick, cartoon violence ensues.

It’s satisfying to see adults put in the same length duration as the teenagers—their scenes are separate from the scenes that show Michael trying to score with Deborah. But why did they have to be treated like idiots? And why did they have to be victims of unfunny comic scenes? Why are they treated like this? But to be fair, they are well-acted—especially Fred Ward, who has a presence that is part-Terminator, part-goofiness.

I was interested in the teenagers’ story until it got to the predictable final half, in which everything is settled and redeemed after an hour of complication. Of course Deborah turns out to be a slut that Michael doesn’t want to bother with anymore. Of course Michael realizes how much Toni feels for him. Of course they’re going to wind up together. I wish I could tell you that how they wind up together was unpredictable…but it wasn’t.

The teenagers are well-played. C. Thomas Howell has an appealing personality, Kelly Preston is suitably attractive and sour, and Lori Loughlin (the best of the bunch) is wonderful and fetching. Then there’s another teenager, played by Casey Siemasko, who is a slob and a party animal who puts himself into the wrong situations every time he tries to smart off. Even he has some appeal.

I wish I could’ve seen these people in a different movie. “Secret Admirer” undermines their uniqueness and talent, which is too bad. I will say this though—this is a much better film that any of the “Porky’s” movies. But of course, that’s not saying much.

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