“Just One of the Guys” (1985)

by A.J. Hakari

What’s a Blog-a-thon? This blog-a-thon is a challenge; its participants have chosen other films the other has not seen to watch and review.

September Blog-a-Thon criteria? Hidden ’80s gems.

Why did Marcey choose this for A.J.? “I chose Just One of the Guys for A.J. to watch because it really fit the criteria we set ourselves for this blog-a-thon. It’s an almost forgotten ’80s film, and I just happened to grow up with it. In my crazy youth, this was one of the comedies I used to watch, and it was a really fun film. It has its issues which I can see more clearly now (which don’t bother me), but it certainly tried to be different in terms of what it was depicting and how this was handled in the same time period. It has a really strong lead performance, and this is one of those films that I think is worthwhile revisiting now.”

And now…A.J.’s review…

I’d like to think that Just One of the Guys was made with strong social subtext in mind. In fact, all of those ’80s comedies wherein people masqueraded as someone of another gender, race, or economic class share the same commentary about embracing our differences and rejecting those forced ideals of homogeneity that defined the decade. I’d like to think that, but I know these flicks only exist because some jackhole in a suit said, “Durr, C. Thomas Howell in blackface is funny!” To be fair, Just One of the Guys isn’t that pandering and has a surprisingly casual approach to tackling subjects that Hollywood was still skittish about embracing at the time. But without much genuine humor and a heroine who’s not as revolutionary as she thinks, it comes across as a dull experience that I’m not surprised to see has been largely forgotten.

Terry Griffith (Joyce Hyser) has just about everything an 18-year-old girl could ever need. She’s got a boyfriend in college, a house with a pool, and a little brother who’s almost but not quite as creepy as the kid from Teen Witch. But when Terry is passed over for the summer journalism gig she was gunning for, she’s understandably miffed. Told that she’d be better appreciated for her looks than for her writing skills, Terry sets out to show the sexists of the world who’s boss by enrolling in a rival school and submitting her articles there…as a boy. Impersonating a dude is harder than it looks, but things get really complicated when Terry starts falling for the same nerdy friend (Clayton Rohner) whom she’s supposed to help get a date for the prom.

Beyond its initial hook, Just One of the Guys doesn’t hold much water. True, it’s not often that women get to pose as guys in this kind of a movie, and Hyser certainly does a better job of passing than the linebackers in miniskirts we usually see from the opposite sex. But for all its talk about gender inequality and how ladies should be appreciated for their minds as much as their bodies, Just One of the Guys never delivers a clear message. We don’t get to know what sort of an article Terry is working on, only that it’s important enough to convince her to abandon her studies and crossdress at another school just to make a point. If she’s saying that men treat women differently, then shit, the first five minutes cover that pretty well. If anything, the movie smacks of hypocrisy, what with championing feminism but populating the supporting cast with a rogue’s gallery of stereotypical dweebs and jocks.

But even if it hadn’t intended on making a statement at all, Just One of the Guys simply isn’t very funny. The script writes itself and misses not one cliched beat, be it the inevitable “oblivious ditz hits on Terry” or “Terry in the men’s room” sequences. The closest the flick comes to getting consistent laughs is with Terry’s dorky horndog brother (Billy Jacoby) hopelessly hitting on everything that moves, but even his schtick wears thin fast. To the movie’s credit, at least he and Hyser have a good rapport with one another, feeling like a real brother/sister pair that trade barbs as often as they’re at one another’s side. Hyser isn’t bad on her own either, plenty convincing as a smart gal who wants a future that doesn’t involve being objectified 24/7.

Just One of the Guys is fairly brazen in how it brings up concepts like transvestism or homosexuality and respectfully treats them like they’re no big deal. It just sucks that it’s all done within the framework of a comedy that’s a slave to convention, with a snooze-worthy romantic subplot to match. Sorry to rain on the parade of anyone who grew up with this in steady rotation in their VCR, but Just One of the Guys just didn’t do much for me.

(Be sure to read Marcey’s review of my recommendation, Miracle Mile, at her website, SuperMarcey.com!)