Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Pom Pom Girls (1976)

Rather than being the sexy romp its marketing materials promise, The Pom Pom Girls is a boring hodgepodge of clichéd teen-cinema tropes. The picture throws together cheerleading, dating, drinking, driving, football, pranks, rebellion, and sex, but fails to generate interest because the characters are so anonymous and the storyline is so enervated. In fact, one must exercise tremendous generosity to suggest that The Pom Pom Girls even has a storyline, since the movie is really just a series of vignettes about teenagers making mischief. Filmmaker Joseph Ruben, who later scored with big-budget thrillers including Sleeping With the Enemy (1991), co-wrote and directed this drive-in dud for the schlock merchants at Crown International Pictures as one of his first projects. Ruben assembled a cast of attractive young people, some of whom periodically disrobe, but The Pom Pom Girls doesn’t even have the conviction of a proper exploitation movie; in lieu of truly raunchy scenes, the picture offers such tame distractions as a cafeteria food fight, a dirt-bike race, and a “chicken run” climax borrowed, shamelessly, from the adolescent-angst classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955). The main characters are football star Jesse (Michael Mullins) and reckless classmate Johnnie (Robert Carradine), along with their girlfriends, cheerleaders Laurie (Jennifer Ashley) and Sally (Lisa Reeves); these leading actors give performances running the gamut from barely adequate to forgettable. The movie tracks the main quartet’s rivalry with students from a neighboring school, as well as the group’s romantic entanglements. While a smidgen of dramatic conflict emerges during arguments between Jesse and his coach (James Gammon), most of the film’s screen time is wasted on trite situations: patrons at a drive-in restaurant getting impatient because the carhop is humping a customer in a van, teenagers stealing a fire truck in order to hose down a rival school’s football team during a practice, and so on. As for the title’s implication that the movie will focus on cheerleading, Laurie and Sally don’t actually wield pom-poms until the 50-minute mark.

The Pom Pom Girls: LAME


Unknown said...

I thought this movie was incredibly enjoyable. No plot, but very fun. Reminded me of DAZED AND CONFUSED.

Varnsen said...

You're right. Dazed And Confused was patterned on this film. It might have left this reviewer non-plussed, but it has been influential enough to inspire every set-in-the-seventies teen film since. How could it not when it is soaked in that mid-seventies aesthetic, which also makes it function well as a period piece.
The Pom Pom Girls is about the girls, not their cheerleading. Okay, so a deep and meaningful story with lots of subtext it doesn't have. But it never promised to either. It's a story of high school hijinks, so it should only be judged on that basis, in which case it succeeds. You don't drive a luxury car and complain that it doesn't handle as taut as a sports car.