Betsy Russell boner alert! There's little denying that as a developing young man in the 80s the cute Russell was responsible for a few fantasies what with her topless horseback ride in 1983's Private School and starring role in our topic here the cheesy little comedy Tomboy. After that she sort of fell off my radar until her appearances in the Saw sequels - she looked good then and she still does now.
Anyhow, back on topic. Tomboy is your basic low-budget Crown International effort that takes the bare minimum of plot, wraps some mild humour and skin around it, and manages to bring us a mildly entertaining 90 minutes. Russell plays Tommy, a girl who's not typical as she has a job fixing cars at the local garage, is fiercely independent, and enjoys messing around with engines, riding dirt bikes (there's a priceless early scene with her shooting a basketball hoop while sitting on one that ends with slo-mo high fives!) and having little interest in the opposite sex. Her best friend Seville (Kristi Somers) is the exact opposite as she's a wannabe actress and is willing to use her sex appeal to try and further herself.
Into the picture comes smarmy rich guy Ernie (Eric Douglas) who just so happens to be the sponsor of stock car racer Randy Starr (Gerard Christopher). Tommy has a pretty major crush on Randy and after being invited to a party at Ernie's manor she strikes up a quick romance with him - this being after they've gone on a dirt bike race through the country and she has nonchalantly changed her wet shirt in front of him. And that's really all the plot you're going to get until the script by Ben Zelig decides they need some form of conflict to close the flick out which pits Tommy's mechanical expertise against Randy's driving skills as she's challenged to create a car that will defeat him in a race (and what a dull, unexciting race it is).
Directed by Herb Freed (who made a trio of horror flicks before this including Haunts and Graduation Day), Tomboy really isn't anything special. It's pretty lazy in its execution and most of the attempts at comedy are pretty forgettable ranging from broad to weak innuendo - even if there's an amusing moment set in a shower room with Seville doubting the penis size of one of her co-dancer's. In fact, the entire thing is pretty skippable unless you happened to grow up in the decade and have memories of watching this on TV or are trying to watch all of the T&A comedies you can. It's badly dated, though you might get some unintentional chuckles from the aerobic dancing and dating montage, and the continual use of the title song on the soundtrack gets pretty grating.
Where this gets some decent points is in the acting department. Russell is pretty adorable in the lead and has decent charisma to boot. It also doesn't hurt that she's willing to disrobe a few times. Somers has a quirky charm even when her character is doing a seemingly random striptease at Ernie's party. The late Douglas, who is the son of Kirk and half-brother of Michael, is pretty weasel-like in his role but it was hard to take him as a ladies' man since he's pretty short and unattractive. Christopher, making his film debut, is probably the weakest and makes for a passable love interest. After Russell, though, the best thing here is Richard Erdman as Tommy's boss and mentor, Chester. His role is pretty standard but he has fun with it.
I watched Tomboy as part of a 12 movie collection entitled "Too Cool for School" which includes such gems as My Tutor and My Chauffeur among others. If you can get this cheaply priced set then by all means check this one out - it's not too bad but it's also not too good either. (Chris Hartley, 4/29/14)
Directed By: Herb Freed.
Written By: Ben Zelig.
Starring: Betsy Russell, Jerry Dinome, Kristi Somers, Richard Erdman.