Pre-Clarice Starling Role Models

I know that today’s great thing is not a particularly great film. gives it a measly 20% rating. Say what?! But, I’d like to honor it anyway for honorable service to my youth and childhood.  This film was the preferred viewing choice on many a snow day and school holiday.  My sister and I would laze about–Steph on the couch and me sprawled out on the floor with a big pillow–with bowls of snacks and plastic cups of ice tea and watch this movie.  We had about half of it memorized.

122.  Feds

In almost every way, this flick epitomizes what was so good about eighties films and what was so very wrong.  First of all, it’s PG-rated, so there’s an inspirational message behind it (teaming up is great, people need brains AND brawn, don’t give up on your dreams even if they seem impossible, hard work pays off, etc…).  Secondly it’s a perfect example of the highly popular eighties genre–the “buddy cop” picture.  Thirdly, the score is riddled with dancey electronic synthesizers.  Perfection.

If you’ve never seen this picture, you better drag out your VCR because (through some massive oversight, obviously), it’s not yet available on DVD.  You hear that Warner Bros.?  Get on it.  My pre-teen self is screaming out for a copy.  Anyway, in a nutshell, as if you couldn’t figure this out by scrolling down and examining the movie poster, it’s about two FBI cadets who, at first, don’t really get along because they’re, you know, so different from each other.  But, they wind up becoming friends and helping each other to develop the skills that they lack.  Obviously, Mary Gross (sister of Family Ties’ Michael Gross and SNL aluma) is the brainy one and Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business, Hand That Rocks The Cradle) is the one that can do push-ups.

When browsing around the Internet for clips/pics to use of Feds, I was disappointed to find that the publicity and promotion for the flick was highly sexist.
Haha…hey, wait a second, screw you, marketing dude!

This poster seems to imply that Americans SHOULDN’T feel safer knowing that there are women like this in the FBI program.  Uh oh!  Don’t give women any guns or power!  Don’t put them in any position of authority!  It’s like that old misogynistic chestnut:  ‘women can’t be president because when they menstruate they’re gonna have their finger on the button’.   Everyone knows that all succesful and responsible female politicians lock themselves into a re-inforced iron-barred werewolf cage when it’s their time of month–just to prevent that sort of international disaster!  So, I wish that kind of paranoid bullcrap would stop.

Even the trailer seems to capitalize on this outdated (even for the eighties) notion:

In reality, the film doesn’t play out like that.  It trades less on pointing and laughing at these characters because they’re women and more on the notion of nerds and toughs coming together.  If the fact that they’re women is an issue at all, it’s really just to celebrate a trend towards diversity in America’s federal institutions.  OK…maybe that’s giving it a bit too much credit, but truly, the movie isn’t as chauvinist as the ads would have you believe.  Thank God.  Directed by Daniel Goldberg (who also co-wrote it with Len Blum), the joke is more on the institutional good-old boys than it was on the ladies who were coming up.

My sister and I probably watched the movie at least twenty times between when it came out (1988) and when she left for college (1992).  I especially liked the scene where (and I don’t want to give anything away here), Rebecca De Mornay totally smokes a male cadet in a pizza-eating contest.  That pizza always looked sooo good.
In a pizza-eating contest, all who try will win.

I was also, always mildly disappointed that Rebecca De Mornay’s character, Ellie DeWitt got with a guy.  She was so cute with her blond pony-tail and brown leather bomber jacket.  Plus, she was ex-military.  Come on!

The movie also has a few choice quotables in it.  When the two trainees, DeWitt and Gross’ Janis Zuckerman, enter a dive bar to investigate a crime a girl-punk that they interact with tells them to ‘suck shit through a tube’.  Why didn’t I ever think to say that before.  Sucking shit through anything would be difficult and also disgusting.  Truly, a comeback to remember.  Well played nasty punk girl.  IMDB discussion board’s Jim819 agrees that this is hands-down the best line in the film.  I concur.

You know that they’re re-making just about everything nowadays.  What would a remake of this look like?  I’m thinking America Ferrara and Clea Duvall for the leads.
Pretty, with a strong jaw!
She'd HAVE to be in Ugly Betty mode as she's actually she's pretty hot.

What do you think, first of all, have you ever seen Feds?  In the theatre, on VHS, or on Lifetime?  Also, who would you cast in an update?

Let’s close with a real recruitment video aimed at getting more women to enroll in the FBI.  Now, don’t get me wrong–all these ladies look like total ass-kickers and what they do is pretty awesome.  But, I still think Feds is a better recruitment vid…

Oh!  One more thing, the whole film is available on YouTube, so if you HAVEN’T seen it, you know it comes with my recommendations.  Open a box of Bugles or Triscuits and pour yourself a plastic cup of ice-cold Nestea and enjoy the eighties.

5 responses to “Pre-Clarice Starling Role Models”

  1. I can’t say that I’ve the same passion that you’ve got for FEDS. I have seen the movie on more the one occasion, but not as a rental. You know when HBO gets their claws into a movie. They will play the shit tube suck out of it. I never liked Rebecca De Mornay. I think I would like to, but I have a strict, “I can’t like you anymore because you were in a movie with Tom Cruise”, clause. The only exception to this clause is “Tropic Thunder” due to the redeeming role he had played. Mary Gross, on the other hand, I love. I will alway see her as “Alfalfa” from the SNL skit, “Buck Wheat has been shot!” I still laugh when I see it.

    1. Yes, Mary Gross was one of the funniest things around during those ‘tube-sucking shitty’ SNL mid-eighties years!
      I know FEDS is sorta awful but I just can’t help myself. Lady buddy cops! Pizza-eating contests! A pompous villain called Brent! De Mornay doing chin-ups!
      Also, I hear what you’re saying about De Mornay. But! She is hot. She was also pretty good on Law and Order SVU recently.
      Tom Cruise is weirdly magnetic. So much about him disturbs me but I can’t help but be drawn to his very movie-star-ness. I wish I never read an article about him. It’s ruined the illusion that he’s the perfect little beautiful man. Tropic Thunder was exactly what he needed…that, and a good de-programming.

  2. GREAT! Finally a site that talks about this cult movie! the scene of pizza is exciting with Rebecca De Mornay that challenges a male chauvinist (Parker) at pizza eating contest. At the beginning things look bad: Rebecca De Mornay is losing much while all the audiences, composed only of men, root for the sexist Parker and everybody roots for him. But luckily Rebecca will win with a clever stratagem.
    After this I didn’ t eat a pizza whit peppers for 1 year 😀

    1. Excellent! Finally a blog-reader who understands all that FEDS has to teach us. I mostly enjoy the stomach gurgle sound effects in that seen. It really sounds like someone is ill!

  3. Love the brief scenes where Rebecca is performing chin ups ! Lovely !! (did she have to undergo physical training for the film ?)

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