Clifford Peach (Chris Makepeace), an easygoing teenager, is finding it less than easy to fit in at his new high school, where a tough-talking bully (Matt Dillon) terrorizes his classmates and extorts their lunch money. Refusing to pay up, Clifford enlists the aid of an overgrown misfit whose mere presence intimidates students and teachers alike. But their "business relationship" soon turns personal as Clifford and the troubled loner forge a winning alliance against their intimidators - and a very special friendship with each other. Ruth Gordon, Martin Mull, Joan Cusack and John Houseman round out "a truly remarkable cast" (Variety) in this delightful coming-of-age comedy and triumphant tribute to the underdog.
'My Bodyguard' is the kind of coming-of-age drama that Freddie Bartholomew, Jackie Cooper, and Mickey Rooney used to make in the thirties and forties (e.g., 'The Devil Is a Sissy,' 'Tom Brown's School Days,' et al.). This 1980 indie is told from the point of view of Clifford (Chris Makepeace), a shy and smart high school sophomore whose acclimating himself to a new school in Chicago. Clifford quickly befriends Carson (Paul Quandt), a short and spunky kid who he sits by in class. Clifford is soon harassed by Melvin Moody (Matt Dillon), the school bully who confronts Clifford and other boys in the school's grimy bathrooms. Clifford realizes that he needs a personal bodyguard to protect himself from the antics of Moody and his friends. He thinks he may have found that person in Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin in his screen debut), an imposing figure whose also new to the school.
The first couple of scenes make it seem that Clifford's family is well-off. Clifford dresses sharp, has a personal chauffeur, and his father serves as hotel manager at the Omni Ambassador East Hotel. But Clifford's dad, Mr. Peache (Martin Mull), makes it clear that he is not the hotel owner. Clifford actually hails from a working-class family. Moody is also interested in being a social climber. He slicks his hair back and tries to be presentable in front of the girls. Moody picks on Clifford because he really wants to steal his lunch money. Linderman is enigmatic and his character arc unpredictable. The audience knows that he is repressing familial trauma internally but can't grap all the circumstances unitl later.
'My Bodyguard' marked the feature directorial debut of Tony Bill, who went on to become a prolific movie and television actor/producer/director. The film is particularly notable for its young stars. Dillon's character of Moody is a logical extension of his character of Richie from 'Over the Edge' (1979). In that film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, Richie famously quipped, "I only got one law. A kid who tells on another kid is a dead kid!" Baldwin is mostly reticent throughout and gives Linderman the appearance of a lost soul. The movie also features early roles by Joan Cusack and Jennifer Beals. The old pro is Ruth Gordon, perfectly cast as Gramma Peache, whose irreverence and comedic charm gives the film energy. Watch for cameos by John Houseman and George Wendt.
There are certain aspects in the script and clothing that have not aged well but 'My Bodyguard' is a sweet and tender film that is well worth revisiting.
'My Bodyguard' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber through a distribution deal with Fox. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this BD-25. The film stock used on productions like these always had a grainy appearance and that aesthetic is preserved by Kino. Colors look more vibrant than the DVD and clarity and sharpness is also improved. There are, however, little scratches that pop up for a half-second which Kino could have removed. The grain structure is solid but there is a little flickering.
Kino has only divided the disc up into eight chapters. (By comparison, the Fox DVD had eighteen scene selections.)
Regrettably, Kino's quality control team neglected any subtitles or captions. (The Fox disc had English subtitles.)
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is only fairly active. Dave Grusin's warmhearted score is delivered mainly across the front channels. Dialog is often clear and intelligible but you may find yourself turning it up for certain scenes (here subtitles would have been helpful.) The DVD had both mono and Stereo Surround so a 5.1 bump would have been unnecessary.
Audio Commentary with Director Tony Bill and Film Programmer Jim Healy: This is a brand new commentary track recorded exclusively for this Kino edition. Bill and Healy engage in a chatty running coversation that blessedly contains no gaps. Healy is very passionate about the film (he saw it four times during its theatrical run) and although Bill hasn't watched it in a long time, he recounts several anecdotes about cast members and a few production stories.
Five TV Spots: ported over from the DVD. They have been upconverted to HD and presented in 1.33:1.
Original Theatrical Trailer: also recycled from Fox's disc. Presented in widescreen and in HD.
'My Bodyguard' is a touching and unsentimental look at youth growing up in Chicago. Makepeace, Baldwin, Dillon, and Gordon each deliver stellar performances. Kino boasts a good video presentation and an adequate lossless audio track. The real gem on the disc is the commentary track with Bill. Recommended for fans of this talented cast.