“Does Your Rear-End Make Noise?”

Jennifer Tilly as ‘Amy Hopkins’ in “Moving Violations”The first/last time I watched Moving Violations (1985) was back in the video-rental days, and while I’d forgotten pretty much everything else about the movie (which involves a group of suspended drivers having to attend a series of road-safety night-classes to earn back their impounded vehicles), one “joke” has stuck with me through the intervening decades: Two men are discussing a ditsy driving school classmate, and one comments that “she’s no rocket scientist”, just before the lady herself reveals that she works for NASA as a literal “rocket scientist”! Now, it isn’t a very good joke, but it was backed up by the visual reinforcement of her showing the male lead around a fancy control centre, before making-out with him in a zero-gravity-simulation chamber (the scene ends with their discarded clothes mimicking their off-screen love-making, via the magic of stop-motion animation, which was kinda cool)… plus the fact that the gorgeous geek-girl in question (‘Amy’) was played by none-other-than Jennifer Tilly, which is why I chose to revisit the movie this weekend…

Considering how crass some of the other disparate-group-of-people-in-training-to-do-stuff comedies were during that period, I was a little worried about how cringe-worthy this relic would be when viewed through my 21st century, thirty-something eyes… but it’s actually pretty inoffensive, compared to the higher-profile Police Academy series (with which it shared two writers). I mean, I wouldn’t say it was going to win any awards for character depth and nuance, but Amy isn’t exploited as a sex object, or made the butt of any stereotypical “bimbo” jokes either… she’s just slightly scatty, in an Einstein-forgetting-where-he-lived sorta way… and the sarcastic edge that Tilly adds to some of her line-readings makes the role a lot more interesting than it might have been “on the page”. That said, she’s still a pretty minor “obligatory love interest”, with the lion’s share of the screen-time awarded to her suitor, a smug smart-ass rebel played by John Murray, doing a shameless impersonation of his older brother, Bill. I didn’t realise they were related until I started researching this post, but it was pretty obvious that the role had been written with Bill in mind, and that their second-rate substitute was desperately trying to fill the great man’s shoes… which was pretty pitiful to watch, and seems even sadder in retrospect, knowing that it wasn’t just some random actor aping the man/legend, but his own flesh-and-blood, trying to sell himself as the comedic equivalent of tofurkey.

Jennifer Tilly as ‘Amy Hopkins’ in “Moving Violations”Overall, though, I quite enjoyed this movie, despite its juvenile sensibility, and perfunctory plotting. It builds to a sufficiently chaotic crescendo, and there are plenty of fun visual and verbal gags along the way, delivered by a (generally) solid cast that includes Fred Willard, Wendie Jo Sperber (as a strangely compliant hypochondriac), and Sally Kellerman (as the kinky/conniving judge who sets the whole thing in motion). I doubt I’ll ever bother watching it again, but I think Tilly’s fans should appreciate it as a one-time window into her acting past… if only to see how she looks with chunky glasses and a “period” perm!

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About deecrowseer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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