Second Union

Second Union

VINTAGE SUMMER: Private Resort (1985)

“You guys really know how to party.”

Private Resort, 1985 (Johnny Depp, Rob Morrow) TriStar Pictures

I had not known (or thought) of Johnny Depp as a “serious” actor in his three ’80s movies. I certainly didn’t know him by name. I knew he was Heather Langenkamp’s beleaguered boyfriend in A Nightmare on Elm Street. I had seen him in Oliver Stone’s Platoon before Private Resort appeared on cable television, so I put two and two together and realized this may have been his first “starring” role in that he plays one half of a duo (top-billed nebbish Rob Morrow being his co-star and good buddy). I think at that point in Depp’s career, he was famous for not being famous but the word on the street was to keep your eye on him because he was going places! This was a year before his breakout television role as Officer Tom Hanson on 21 Jump Street (back when it was a serious cop drama and not the goofy parody it has become).

It takes a while for Private Resort to get off the ground. Director George Bowers was aiming for a mise en scène aesthetic populating his shots with beautiful young people enjoying each other a great deal (that last bit to be read in the “wild and crazy guy” vernacular)! Morrow and Depp make for a decent comedy team, like a better-looking Abbott & Costello (with some call-backs to the Marx Brothers) getting into wacky mistaken-identity misadventures. There’s even an amusing slap-fight between the boys and Andrew Dice Clay.

One particular set-up has Depp trying to seduce Hector Elizondo’s wife (Leslie Easterbrook from Police Academy) while Morrow pretends to be a hotel barber cutting Hector’s “hair” (which is an obvious rug). I blame Caddyshack for this kind of stuff. Morrow, of course, ruins Hector’s hair, and next, we have a chase scene through the hotel, where they wind up in an aerobics class. Hector and the boys are required to workout while he tries to figure out a way to kill them.

Hector also figures into the “B” plot as a thief determined to steal Dody Goodman’s diamond necklace. He appears at various points in the movie dressed in ridiculous outfits and using affected accents in an effort to seduce Goodman so he can grab her jewels. His comic timing is the only thing that saves the movie for me. He gets the funniest line in the movie, but unfortunately, I can’t repeat it here. Otherwise, one scene just sort-of smashes into the next. Depp plays “devil” to Morrow’s “angel.” Morrow is in love with a waitress, while Depp’s just looking for a good time.

I was unaware that Private Resort completed a trilogy of “Private” films produced by R. Ben Efraim, starting with Private Lessons and Private School. I wonder what lessons were learned by the central characters and if any subtext can be attributed to a grander mythology. Maybe I’m just over-thinking it. The writers know their way around a joke, but there’s so much skin on display, I frankly don’t care. This is an insanely stupid movie made for an insanely stupid audience.

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