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Screwballs II: Loose Screws

1985, Starring Bryan Genesse, Karen Wood, Alan Deveau, Cindy Bellevau, Mike McDonald. Directed by Rafal Zielinski.

Today's Canadian film scene might seem like it's filled with the same dozen people, but believe it or not, it isn't quite as inbred as the rash of mid-1980s "balls" teen sex comedies. Titles such as Screwballs, Fireballs, and Oddballs were often structured around similar "zany" teen antics and featured the same actors, locations, and even casting agents. Director Rafal Zielinski was undoubtedly the reigning Master of the Balls, with at least four teen comedies under his belt by the nineties. That includes this particular film (more commonly known as Loose Screws), which was a sequel of sorts to Screwballs, his original 1983 rip-off of Porky's that really got the "balls" rolling, as it were.

It's not a true sequel, since the original Screwballs characters aren't reprised. Instead, Zielinski reunites the broad stereotypes Jason Warren returns as the fat guy (not "Melvin Jerkovski" but "Marvin Eatmore") and Alan Deveau plays nerd Hugh G Rection (although "Howie Bates," his character in the original, seems to return in Zielinski's 1986 film Recruits). New actors are brought in to play the rest of the team, the rich jock (" Steve Hardman") and the ladies man ("Brad Lovett"), but the hapless transfer student caricature has not made it to the sequel.

Not only is the characterization familiar to those that have seen the first Screwballs, but this whole film seems like 90 minute deja-vu. In a sub-genre rife with borrowing and shared resources, Screwballs II is easily the least original film of the entire "balls" series. From music to script, from jokes to casting, Screwballs II often seems like an uninspired pastiche of earlier teen sex comedy outings, with little to laugh at.

When Principal Arsenault (Canadian comedian Mike McDonald) calls our four heroes into the office at the end of the school year, they are informed that they have to attend summer school at "Cockswell Academy" or they won't graduate. Seeing this as a chance to for extra-curricular ogling and sex, they agree. When a busload of girls arrive at Cockswell, the relatively good-natured "bet" of the first film to see the class virgin naked is replaced with a much more reprehensible competition, in which the characters score anywhere from 1 to 5 points for a variety of activities, from peeking on girls to actually having sex with them. Then, making the contest completely pointless, French teacher Mona Lott (Cindy Bellevau) is declared to be worth 100 points.

And then, in the tradition of the original, the film then launches into a collection of suggestive scenes in which characters try to score these points. Enjoy Bosom Buddies? Well, the scene in which Brad sneaks into the girl's dorm in drag and is outed by a raised toilet seat is on a collision course with zaniness! Other scenarios include a breast exam and aphrodisiac gas, both throwbacks to the first Screwballs. Some video tape shenanigans are reminiscent of Revenge of the Nerds, and a jazzercise scene is similar to Heavenly Bodies. The prize for "most blatantly stolen scene" goes to the kids' adventures at " The Pig Pen," a strip club that obviously owes quite a bit to Porky's.

Although Screwballs II manages to rise above some of the "balls" comedies by staying essentially true to the sacred manifesto of the screwball films (increasingly zany schemes to see naked girls), it quickly becomes repetitive, even in the context of the genre. In each case, the guys are trying to score the 100 points with Mona, but Principal Arsenault catches them every single time. Since Arsenault also wants to score with Mona, he subjects the teens to humiliating janitor work as punishment, until they start to formulate a new plan for revenge.

In the first film, each elaborate plan to see Purity Busch naked always failed, no matter how many other girls fell for it. The comedy actually derived from the denial of nudity to these horny teenage boys. Screwballs II attempts something similar by placing Mona Lott on Ms Busch's pedestal, but then it undermines it's own potential for humour in a desperate attempt to increase the amount of T& A it shows off. These other " revealing" scenes, involving other students and in one case, Arsenault's wife, often take precedence over the main plot, with few funny results.

The rise and fall of the "balls" films mirror that of the Canadian tax shelters. After Porky's hit it big and the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) was re-introduced in 1983, Screwballs appeared out of nowhere, quickly followed by a slew of imitators. But by 1987, when the CCA was back dropped down to 20%, this tradition was all but abandoned. Considered a lapse of taste in the strange history of the Canadian comedy film, critics quietly wished the "balls" comedies away, but it wasn't to be. The genre was revitalized several years later by another Canadian entry, Damian Lee's Ski School. Appearing right in the middle of the initial four-year flourishing period, Screwballs II represents an awkward stage for the increasingly competitive trend, in which originality and humour have been sacrificed for familiarity.

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