Just One of the Guys is one of a number of films that I grew up watching on late night cable, which is actually how I discovered a lot of ’80s flicks I wouldn’t normally have seen. It may not be as memorable or highly regarded as some of the bigger name comedies, but it’s still filled with cheesy, androgynous fun. Helped by the delightful balance of semi-raunchy humor that never dips too low brow and surprisingly snappy dialogue, the film ends up being an easygoing and enjoyable comedy.
The story is very loosely based on Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’, so you know you’re in for some mistaken identities and cross-dressing antics. Terri Griffith (Joyce Hyser) seemingly has it all: she’s smart, sexy, and has a gorgeous college boyfriend. She’s determined to become a journalist, but when she’s turned down for her dream internship she feels it’s because the penis-centric society sees women as nothing more than pinups. To prove her point Terri decides to enroll in another high school, this time as a guy, so she can submit her article again and see if she gets the internship. With little more than a hair cut, a sock in her pants, and a few pointers from her brother Buddy (the horniest little brother you’ll ever see!), Terri sets off with her new personality that “dresses like Elvis Costello and looks like the Karate Kid”.
As it turns out, life as a guy isn’t as easy as it looks. On her…his first day, Terri is faced with the school bully (played by the always awesome William Zabka, which makes the “Karate Kid” line even funnier), gym class, jock straps, and urinals. All of which she cleverly maneuvers or the filmmakers simply glance over once the jokes have run their course. Despite the contrivances and conveniences of the plot, of which there are far too many to point out here, the story actually plays out really well. Terri ends up spending a couple of weeks at this school before she needs to turn in her article and in the process she falls for her buddy Rick (Clayton Rohner) and catches the eye of the sexy Sandy (Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame), all while trying to keep this secret from her current boyfriend. When it all comes out at the prom (literally), everything is wrapped up a little too neatly and predictably for my tastes, but the film never takes itself seriously enough for it to matter much.
I think the reason this film works for me is that it’s a complete farce and a cheesy ’80s farce at that. The clothing, the music, and the attitudes are almost overly stereotypical so it feels like it’s parodying the decade even though it was made right in the middle of it. Joyce Hyser (who was 28 when this film was made) is sexy as a girl, but also curiously sexy as a dude and even I can admit that there’s something oddly hot about a girl hitting on another girl who’s pretending to be a guy. “Of course you’re confused. You’re wearing my underwear.” Appearances aside, Terri is so humorously bad when pretending to be a guy that you start to ask how any of these people can believe her…but then you realize that this isn’t the film for such silly questions and you just go with the flow. All things considered, it’s really Billy Jayne who steals the show as Buddy, as he spews the one liners and zingers naturally and gets some of the best dialogue of the movie.
Terri: Budster, there’s a half-naked woman in your bedroom feeding pizza to some fish, and she’s all yours.
Buddy: Sounds too kinky for me.
Terri: Buddy, she needs you. I need you. You need her.
Buddy: Is she really half-naked?
Terri: Maybe more by now.
Buddy: What if you’re lying?
Terri: What if I’m not?
Buddy: Good point – if I’m not back in a week, forward my mail.