Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: Oxford Blues (1984)
Back on the Birthday Series after my brief detour through the vault, and I can’t say I’m that happy to be back. For those that don’t know the rules, all you do is pick a film released as close to your birthday as possible and review it. Today’s offering is, I think, only the third sport based movie that I’ve ever done, as they do tend to be formulaic in the extreme and my interest often depends on the sport being filmed. Oxford Blues managed the impossible, and somehow found a sport more boring than Drag Racing. That sport? Rowing. Seriously, each year the BBC try to pretend that the nation gives a red fuck about “The Boat Race” between Oxford and Cambridge rather than that tiny proportion of the country that can claim either of them as an alma mater.
Contains cocky Americans showing us stuffy English types how it is done and spoilers below.
I think Oxford Blues taught me something that I really should have known beforehand and I have to say, and it’s not my imagination: the early 1980’s really did produce a lot of cinematic vomit. Oxford Blues (24th August in the USA) is a cringeworthy load of cheesy shit taking a hackneyed and predictable story and amping the embarrassment factor up to 11. Honestly, this is a hideously awful film on pretty much ever level and I struggled to get through it.
Rob Lowe plays Nick De Angelo. In the days before the internet, he has to satisfy his masturbatory cravings with pictures from people magazine of Lady Victoria (Amanda Pays). He somehow manages to chance his way across the pond, where he joins Oriel college at Oxford and somehow chances his way on to the rowing team. All to impress Lady Victoria. So, American Cox (Ally Sheedy- wasted), persuades him that he really loves Oxford, but he’s in terrible conflict with beastly English toffs (Julian Sands plays Victoria’s boyfriend) who bully him. Will he help Sands out in the climactic race and maybe win Vicky’s heart, or will he follow his penis and realise that Sheedy is the one for him?
This is an appalling film. It’s actually embarrassingly bad. The English characters are single-dimensional upper-crust villains, while Nick is all tough and cocky and streetwise and in Oxford to show these stick-in-the-mud types how America does it. USA! USA! USA! He’s also, to be fair, lacking in dimensions but this is to be expected. The “debate” scene with Nick extolling the virtues of the American dream while the English sneer at him (the accent is practically “mwah mwah mwah” sounding) is crushingly shameful and an almost perfect example of what I’m talking about here.
There are other problems with the writing here. I’ve never heard of Robert Boris before, but he’s got absolutely no business at all writing about the English University system, or England in general, frankly. The film is full of useless and embarrassing factual errors that he could have fixed with one phone call- such as, in this country you sign up to University to study one subject- you can’t just pick a class and then decide that you’re going to attend it (as Nick does). It’s rammed full of silly errors like this that just yanked me out of the film altogether.
Boris was also directing, and the climactic Rowing race is horribly filmed. Nick and Indistinguishable Toff number 1 race miles ahead before Nick breaks the thing he puts his oar in and they have to stop. This gives the two dastardly Yanks from Harvard time to catch up and yadda yadda yadda you’ll never guess what’s coming. He’s tried so god damned hard to inject tension into the race that he’s intentionally manufactured a stupid and unrealistic situation that makes the inevitable end feel forced and artificial. This race should have been filmed as being all nip-and tuck, Rob and Julian shouldn’t have been able to basically get miles ahead before fate intervenes, because it devalues it as a contest.
I’m bored of this review now, as I’ve got nothing of interest to say about the film. However, before I sign off, even if the film were any good, then I’d still be thinking about a highly negative review purely for the closing credits sequence. This absolutely has to be seen to be believed, but we’ve got Rob Lowe wearing a dress shirt and bow tie, with shiny red boxer shorts and matching red socks dancing in front of a mirror in his dorm room. Then he gets to try other outfits on as well. It’s painfully bad, actually, and so cringe worthy that I can’t believe that anyone thought it was a good idea.
Overall, Oxford Blues is honk. A dismal concoction of wretched writing, lousy acting, poor characters, shoddy direction and overwhelming and crushing boredom. I can’t emphasise this enough- the only reason to watch this film is either a) you really want to see Rob Lowe in a kilt, or b) you’ve taken a massive blow to the cerebral cortex and now have the mental faculties of a small melon. These are the only two possible justifications for seeing it. As I’m attempting another Birthday Series, then I’m clearly the latter. Oxford Blues can have an Orangutan of Doom, and can, quite frankly, fuck off.
Next up is Metalstorm- which is a quite glorious mess that I need to rewatch.
The Full List for the Birthday Series Redux:
- 2011- The Skin I Live In (2.5 out of 4)
- 2010- The Last Exorcism (2.5 out of 4)
- 2009- Post Grad (1 out of 4)
- 2008- The House Bunny (1 out of 4)
- 2007- Knocked Up (1 out of 4)
- 2006- Volver (1 out of 4)
- 2005- Red Eye (2 out of 4)
- 2004- Dead Clowns (Orangutan of Doom)
- 2003- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (1 out of 4)
- 2002- Talk to Her (4 out of 4)
- 2001- Jeepers Creepers (2 out of 4)
- 2000- Gossip (1 out of 4)
- 1999- All About My Mother (1 out of 4)
- 1998- The X-Files (1 out of 4)
- 1997- Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (2 out of 4)
- 1996- The Last Supper (3 out of 4)
- 1995- The Usual Suspects (4 out of 4)
- 1994- Color of Night (2 out of 4)
- 1993- Surf Ninjas (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1992- The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (2 out of 4)
- 1991- Pump Up the Volume ( 3 out of 4)
- 1990- Wild at Heart (3 out of 4)
- 1989- Bull Durham (3.5 out of 4)
- 1988- Crossing Delancey (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1987- The Big Easy (3 out of 4)
- 1986- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1 out of 4)
- 1985- Better off Dead (3 out of 4)
- 1984- Oxford Blues (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1983- MetalStorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
- 1982- The Thing
- 1981- Honky Tonk Freeway
- 1980- Schock
- 1979- Rich Kids
- 1978- Coma