A few months ago, seized with a fit of madness, I felt compelled to revisit some barely remembered movies from my high school years. In the case of The Party Animal, it was only a single scene that managed to stick in my memory over the decades, but it’s a favorite. (Warning: Potty mouths are involved.)
Sorry folks, that’s my sense of humor. I have no excuses.
Taking in The Party Animal all these years later, a couple of things became evident. One is that I’ve been watching bad movies for a long, looong time. This one was such a stinker that Matthew Causey, who played the lead character Pondo, supposedly became so disgusted with the anti-intellectual state of Hollywood that he quit acting soon after and became a well respected college professor, one who apparently brooks no mention of his role in The Party Animal whatsoever.
But the other thing is how hard the film tries (and, alas, fails miserably) to be more than just the typical 80s teen sex comedy. It takes the standard set-up for this kind of movie, a kid who wants nothing more than to have sex at least once, and mixes in a dash of Faust (“I’d sell my soul for a piece of…”) with a heaping handful of Romans 6:23 (“For the wages of sin is death”). You see, unlike in other movies like Porky’s and its like, where the characters’ puerile pursuits are depicted as nothing more than good clean teen fun, every action undertaken by Pondo in his search for sex has actual consequences, initially for himself (as in the above clip) and ultimately for others as well. The movie goes so far as to have a scene where Pondo, having force fed a number of women some experimental love potions, is brought into the dean’s office and confronted with all the girls he’s injured (one, hilariously, has the head of the Metaluna Mutant from This Island Earth) through his efforts. Finally, after stumbling upon a working formula, Pondo is crushed to death by a horde of portly women who find him irresistible. The film ends as it began, with a shot of the Angel Of Death (seriously) staring knowingly into the camera. Hope you enjoyed the movie, kids, have fun on the way home. But not TOO much fun, if you catch my drift.
Now don’t get me wrong, The Party Animal still has all of the standard gratuitous profanity, drug and alcohol use, and (oddly non-sexual) nudity found in every other 80s teen movie, maybe even more so than others, but what sets it apart from even the more ‘serious’ entries in the genre (Risky Business, The Last American Virgin, etc,) is its overwhelming sense of sin and its repercussions. Strangely enough, the same year The Party Animal was released Pope John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenetentia that “the restoration of a proper sense of sin is the first way of facing the grave spiritual crisis looming over man today. But the sense of sin can only be restored through a clear reminder of the unchangeable principles of reason and faith which the moral teaching of the church has always upheld.” Which is easier said than done because “even in the field of the thought and life of the church certain trends inevitably favor the decline of the sense of sin. For example, some are inclined to replace exaggerated attitudes of the past with other exaggerations: From seeing sin everywhere they pass to not recognizing it anywhere; from too much emphasis on the fear of eternal punishment they pass to preaching a love of God that excludes any punishment deserved by sin; from severity in trying to correct erroneous consciences they pass to a kind of respect for conscience which excludes the duty of telling the truth.”
Obviously, The Party Animal was in no way what the Pope had in mind when he wrote of restoring a sense of sin to the world, but hey, these days I’ll take the sentiment where I can get it. Any movie with the guts to call a sin a sin, or an animal an animal for that matter, can’t be all bad.