When a filmmaker has three minutes to transform a hopeless moron/pussy/werewolf into a triumphant hero celebrating a happy ending, there are a couple of options. They could go back and add believable plot points, subtle foreshadowing and nuanced characterization to make the character's success believable. Or, they could just kick out some motherfucking jams, temporarily turn their movie into a music video and hope that the audience is too distracted to notice that they've completely abandoned all reason and logic.
For a short period of time during the 1980s, this technique was elevated to an art form known as the movie montage. Here are our nominations for the '80s Movie Montage Hall of Fame, complete with the categories of each montage, the problematic plot holes that each overcame, the motherfucking jams that each kicked and the improbable happy endings that resulted.
Good anytime you need to transform a loser into a hero in just five minutes, the training montage is among the most common forms, and operates on it' own strange internal logic.
The originator of the training montage, this group of films probably isn't given its proper due for creating the entire genre of film that we now know as the '80s movie. The ridiculous underdogs fighting against enormous odds, the disproportionately evil bad guy, the quiet unassuming love interest who turns out to be attractive when you take off her glasses. But before all of that, the makers of the first film were faced with a quandary. They somehow had to show someone excersising for two months and make it interesting.
"Rocky Theme Song"
These things just kept getting better with each film. In the first two, there are the standard one-armed pull-ups on urban playgrounds and the running up the steps of Philly' art museum:
In the third, there' the "Rocky learns rhythm from a black coach" and "homoerotic wind sprints with Apollo on the beach" training montage:
And then finally, in the fourth and finest film, Rocky' in Russia, substituting rustic farm equipment for his normal training gear, outrunning cars driven by the KGB and climbing a mountain in under a minute:
Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!
Back to School
The film' main character, Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) has been paying people to do his homework and take his tests all year, but with an oral exam coming up, he has to learn a semester' worth of information in just one night:
And even though that last sentence describes the finals experience of pretty much every college student we've ever met, Rodney Dangerfield is old so, you know, it' worth making a movie about.
Instrumental hoo-ha. We think it' piano.
The first rule of the training montage is that if you want to learn a skill fast, all you have to do is perform that action in a variety of beautiful or quirky locations. Whenever Rocky needed to get good at boxing, he'd just train in a bunch of different scenic places all over the city of Philadelphia. Whenever the Karate Kid needed to get good at Karate, he'd practice on a bunch of scenic bluffs overlooking California beaches. Dangerfield apparently saw those films, because he knows that all he needs to do to ace his test is study in a bunch of zany locations: while getting a massage, while taking a shower and even at night in the dark:
Not only does he pass, but he is able to win his school' diving competition too, which means that the film gives us the pleasure of seeing a geriatric Rodney Dangerfield in both the shower and in a bathing suit.
The big dance is coming up and Willard (Chris Penn) is a total clod. He' the strong silent type who wears a cowboy hat, gets into fistfights and thinks dancing' for city folk. Lucky for Willard, he' recently befriended a city boy (Kevin Bacon) who loves dancing. In fact, he loves dancing so much that at one point during an unspeakably hilarious seven-minute stretch of the film, he dances by himself through an empty warehouse despite the fact that he has no way of hearing the music playing in his car stereo: