Kids, we’re going to the happiest place on earth: Tijuana! The year is 1965. The music is nonstop incredible. And the mission is simple: Losin’ It. There have been many comedies about teenagers desperately seeking sex — Porky’s, American Pie, this week’s new release The Virginity Hit — but few can lay claim to such a sparkly group of alumni. Losin’ It was directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys). Besides starring future director John Stockwell, future Cheers-dropout Shelley Long, and future comeback-kid Jackie Earle Haley, Losin’ It features a young Tom Cruise at the moment right before Risky Business made him a star.
Let us know in the comments if you remember this barely-available-on-DVD gem, and read on for a discussion about donkeys, Mexican stereotypes, the evolution of Teen Sex comedies, and the secret greatness of War of the Worlds.
Keith Staskiewicz: As soon as Shelley Long gets in the car, you know someone’s losin’ it to Shelley Long. Will it be the sullen one? No. Will it be the balding horndog? No. Will it be the little kid? No. It’s gonna be Tom Cruise.
Darren Franich The actual “Losin’ It” aspect of Losin’ It is confusing. One of three friends has already lost it. One of them loses it very early in the movie. Tom Cruise loses it at the midway point of the film. And then it just stops being a raunchy sex comedy, and turns into a goofy chase farce.
KS: It’s set in the ’60s for no reason at all, except maybe to imitate American Graffiti. It’s very similar: guys cruising around for one crazy night, finding their adulthood, all set to a kickass soundtrack.
DF: One of the guys, Spider, isn’t even a virgin. When someone asks him why he’s going to Tijuana, he says, “I just want to see a donkey.” Which seems like a throwaway line, but it’s actually his entire character arc.
KS: If you made Spider’s story into its own movie, it’d be Midnight Express. He has sex with a prostitute, gets demoralized, and goes off on a long, lonely quest to find the donkey show. But we don’t even see it, because he gets into a fight. Then he goes to jail. Then he gets into a fight in jail.
DF: Spider is played by John Stockwell, who later directed two movies with the word Blue in the title. The IMDB plot summary of his next movie is: “Anthony and Julian have just one little task: Save the prostitute from the hot psychopath who mutilated her pimp and expose a U.S. Senator for the sex crazed murderer that he is.”
KS: Jackie Earle Haley plays the super-horndog, and he’s constantly screaming and gesticulating. It’s supposed to be manic, but it’s actually frightening. He’s also balding at the age of 15, which is probably why they have him wear the hat. This is one of the last movies he made before a quarter-century career rut, but you can already see the seeds of his comeback as Hollywood’s Go-To Creepy Guy.
DF: Tijuana in the movie is basically just a bunch of brothels and a junkyard. Although there’s an amazing comedy-music act at one of the brothels. “Eisenhower!” “Eisenhower who?” “Eisenhower late to the gang-bang!
KS: “Tijuana!” “Tijuana Who?” “Tijuana go to the gang-bang!” Losin’ It hits every stereotype. The corrupt police. The corrupt taxi drivers. The bruisers.
DF: The virginity stuff is besides the point. It’s a movie about kids having wacky Mexican adventures, kind of like how Porky’s is about taking down the evil, fat bar owner. It seems like Hollywood hadn’t yet figured out that you could just make a teen sex comedy about, you know, teen sex. By comparison, American Pie feels like an incredibly realistic emotional drama.
KS: Tom Cruise is top-billed in Losin’ It, but he doesn’t say anything for he first half of the movie. He just laughs awkwardly and walks around with his hands in his pockets.
DF: 1983 was a big year for him. The Outsiders came out in March, Losin’ It came out in April. Risky Business came out in August, and All the Right Moves came out in October. After this he did Legend. After Top Gun he did The Color of Money. After Cocktail, he did Rain Man and Born on the Fourth of July. It’s common now for actors to do a weird/serious/arty film after a blockbuster, but Cruise was already doing that 25 years ago. And that continued throughout his career: He played the villain, or villainous roles, in Interview With a Vampire, Collateral, Magnolia…
KS: How many actors allow themselves to be a villain? Or even just a really unpleasant character? In War of the Worlds, he’s a divorced father who does not know how to deal with his kids. He really makes you believe that the guy is a screw-up dockworker.
[REDACTED: A lengthy digression on the general awesomeness of Tom Cruise, especially in Minority Report (which Keith loves) and Collateral (which is Darren’s favorite movie)]
DF: Cruise underplays his role in Losin’ It, so he at least maintains more of his dignity than the rest of the cast.
KS: The last shot of the movie is of Wendell, the kid. He looks at the camera and shrugs. Yup, that pretty much sums it up.
DF: You know, there’s never been a teen sex comedy about a group of girls making a “Losin’ It” pact. I guess because it would last two minutes. Like, a high school girl says, “Hey, me and my three friends just made a pact to lose our virginity!”
KS: And a high school guy says, “Funny you should say that! Me and my three friends just made a pact!”
DF: The End!
Next Week: Ben Affleck directs and stars in The Town. Philip Seymour Hoffman directs and stars in Jack Goes Boating. But can either of them measure up to Warren Beatty, who directed and starred in Dick Tracy? We’ll find out, won’t we?