Februrary 17, 2013

My Bodyguard (1980)
Starring Chris Makepeace, Adam Baldwin, and Matt Dillon

Comments:   My Bodyguard is a movie that is tailor made for a countdown like this.  Because here is a movie that was a really big deal to pretty much any kid who grew up in the early 80's.  It was on TV all the time, everyone loved it, it was one of those movies that defined practically an entire generation of kids in America.  And then it was replaced by the John Hughes movies in the mid 80's (because they represented that generation too) and then My Bodyguard just sort of got forgotten.  

Sadly, nowadays it is one of those long lost great movies that you rarely ever hear about.  

My Bodyguard is the story of a kid named Clifford Peache.  Clifford is played by Chris Makepeace and, as I said in my review of Meatballs, Chris Makepeace is one of those actors who really was sort of a notch above most other child actors.  In fact, in my opinion, he never made a bad movie in his entire career.  He made his debut in 1978 in Meatballs, he rocked that movie, and then he followed it up with My Bodyguard and he rocked that too.  And then he worked with Tom Hanks in a TV movie called Mazes and Monsters, and after that he did a couple of other movies and then he retired.

By the way, I should point out that Chris Makepeace was billed way higher than Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters.  So that should tell you something.  This guy was one of the greatest child actors who ever lived.  It is a shame that he just sort of disappeared at some point in the mid 80's.

Chris Makepeace

So anyway, Clifford Peache is a rich kid who lives in a hotel (his dad is a hotel manager) and one day he attends a new school in Chicago.  He has been attending private academies most of his life, but because he and his dad are new in the area, this time they have decided to put him in a public school.  So Clifford goes to public high school for the first time in his life.

And right off the bat, he makes an enemy.


Melvin Moody (played by Matt Dillon) is more or less the school extortionist.  He is the meanest kid in school, not to mention one of the biggest kids in school, and he has set up an agreement with most of the other kids in high school.  They either pay him protection money every day (basically they give him their lunch money), or he and his thugs will beat the crap out of them.

This is a time honored tradition around the high school and, quite frankly, all the kids go along with it.  Mostly because they are scared of Moody.  Let's face it, the kid is a complete sociopath.

Don't fuck with Moody

Well of course Clifford comes to school the first day, and naturally he runs into Moody.  Who is quite interested in this meek little rich kid who doesn't have any friends.

Moody pulls Clifford aside in the bathroom, and he tells him how things are going to be run around here.  Either you give me your lunch money every day, or my friends and I are going to make your life a living hell.  Your choice.  Either pay up or I can't promise that you will be safe around here.

Moody staring down his newest victim.  Do we have a deal?

Well Clifford isn't necessarily the most streetwise kid you have ever met.  He might be smart, but he really hasn't ever been around a bully before.  He goes home and he tells his dad what happened.  And his dad calls the principal.  And this of course gets Moody a week in detention.

And since nobody has ever stood up to him before, Moody's officially places Clifford Peache on the top of his shit list.

Moody informing Clifford that he is going to kill him now

Yes I know it is shocking to see bullying portrayed in a movie from 1980.  Since, you know, the media tells us that bullying in schools just started last year and that it is a brand new epidemic now.  But I have to tell you, there was a kid like Moody in every school I ever went to.  You always knew who they were, and you never wanted to get on their bad side.  As a boy (in particular) you would spend most of your time in school trying to figure out who the Moody was and trying to stay away from him.

I remember seeing this movie for the first time when I was a kid and Matt Dillon just terrified me.  He scared me half to death.  He is by far one of the best bullies I have ever seen in any movie ever.  And by best of course I mean he is horrible.  This is EXACTLY what a school bully looked like and acted like in 1980.  It is a shame that so few people have ever seen how good Matt Dillon is in this role.  

I actually didn't want to go to middle school because of Matt Dillon in My Bodyguard.

Matt Dillon, destroyer of worlds

Okay, so Moody is after Clifford, and Moody starts a reign of terror to make Clifford's life a living hell.

And this is where the movie actually gets fun.


You see, there is one kid in school who is even more feared then Melvin Moody.  His name is Ricky Linderman and, for lack of a better term, the kids in school are just absolutely scared shitless of him.  He is just this giant odd hulking figure who walks around school in a green Army jacket and who everyone avoids.  

Even Moody stays away from Ricky Linderman.  He is the one kid in school who is so big and is so scary that not even the school extortionist will mess with him.

Linderman and his death glare

Why is everyone so frightened of Ricky Linderman?  Well for one it is because he doesn't talk.  He is about half a foot taller than everyone else in school, and he never says a word.  He just lurks in the back of every class and people stay away from him.

Oh yeah, and there are rumors that Linderman once raped a teacher.  And that he once killed a kid.

Needless to say, when there is a seven foot tall rapist murderer in the back of your class, you do your best to stay away from him.

Well this is where Clifford gets a brilliant idea.

He might not be the most streetwise kid in the world, but he does have money.  And he is kinda smart.

He realizes, "Hey, if Moody is actually afraid of Linderman, what if I just paid my lunch money to Linderman instead?  When if I paid Linderman to be my bodyguard?  Because hey, I'm still out my lunch money, but at least then I get to pick who my money is going to.  Oh, and also because Moody, fuck you."

And that's how Linderman becomes Clifford's bodyguard

Hey Moody, here's a message from everyone

My Bodyguard is one of those movies that everyone loved when it first came out.  It was everywhere.  It has got to be one of the first PG movies that most kids ever saw on VHS.  In fact I remember HBO even doing a special report based on this movie in 1980, they called it "Bodyguards: the new trend in schools?"  This movie was so popular at the time that news stations actually did studies to see if kids were really doing this in high schools.

Of course I am not giving away the entire movie.  I am only giving you the setup. Once Linderman signs on as Clifford's bodyguard, the movie goes in a direction that you really don't expect it will go.  It is one of those movies that will sort of sneak up on you and surprise you with how touching it is.

It is also a good reminder that the kid that you think is a badass is sometimes quite the opposite.

One of my favorite movie trios ever

My Bodyguard is a neat little time capsule of what teen movies looked like in 1980.  Everyone knew this movie, and everyone loved it.  And unfortunately that is exactly what happened to it.  It got replaced by a different type of teen movie in the mid 80's and it permanently turned into a time capsule.  Nowadays you wouldn't even know about it unless somebody recommends it to you.  In fact I bet there are people like me who grew up in the early 80's and who probably haven't seen it in more than thirty years.

By the way, this was Joan Cusack's first movie

Like I said at the start of my review, if there is one movie that was tailor made for a countdown like "200 Movies That Deserve More Love" it is My Bodyguard.  This movie should easily be ranked right up there along with the John Hughes movies and Fast Times at Ridgemont High as the best teenage movies of the 80's.  Yet for some reason it isn't.  And I don't understand why.  I have never met a person who didn't like it.

Even if, yes, most of the Ruth Gordon scenes are kind of annoying.  Sorry Maude.

In my Meatballs review I said you should see Meatballs just because it is a Chris Makepeace movie, and because Chris Makepeace movies are awesome.  Well the same thing goes for My Bodyguard.  In fact, in my opinion, My Bodyguard will always be the ultimate Chris Makepeace movie.  

Not bad for a kid who was Canadian.

He's not your buddy, guy.

My Bodyguard.  Featuring the awesome Chris Makepeace, the underrated Adam Baldwin, about 15% too much Ruth Gordon, and Matt Dillon as the kid who single handedly nearly scared me out of attending middle school.  I am 38 years old now and I am still terrified of that guy.

If there is a better candidate for an underloved movie I don't know what it would be.

Nothing says early 80's like a JOCK t-shirt.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about My Bodyguard:

Incredible "forgotten" movie - 31 May 2007
I rented this movie the other day because I remember it from my childhood. I was expecting to watch it with my wife (I haven't seen it since I was about 7) and laugh at the funny clothes, language, and general definitions of what was "cool" in 1980. In other words, I wasn't expecting to see a good movie, just watch some nostalgic mystery science theater 3000 fodder. What I saw totally shocked me...this is a VERY good movie. Incredibly acted by Makepeace, Baldwin, and Dillon, this movie is not the stereotypical goofy 80's teen drama. This is a very well put together film that deserves much more historical acclaim than it is given. Dillon and Makepeace are dead on in their stereotypical roles of bully and nerd, but it's Baldwin as the brooding, misunderstood, mysterious hulk that steals the show. Ricky Linderman is one of the more interesting movie characters you will ever come across. Granted, I did also get my dose of 80's humor (the guys playing basketball in red short-shorts, white knee high socks, and black shoes is worth the price of the rental alone) but I got something else I didn't expect...a great hidden gem of a movie!

Terrific Little Film With Enormous Heart - 2 November 2004
This film is an absolute joy. When it came out 24 years ago my friends and I went to see it about 5-6 times. I've not seen it since and recently purchased it.

It was like opening a time capsule: everything was still fresh and true with tremendous performances from a terrific ensemble cast.

The standout performance belongs to Adam Baldwin. 17 when this was filmed, Baldwin's performance is nothing short of astonishing. His Linderman is classic "tough guy" on the outside, frightened loner beneath the surface. Properly fearful looking (the whole school is scared of this guy) Baldwin nonetheless makes it impossible for you not to feel for this kid and when, out of his greasy, shapeless clothes and cleaned up and dressed for dinner at the hotel, his smile and demeanor

Chris Makepeace shines as the tale's protagonist, Clifford and his persistence in courting friendship with Linderman is a turning point in the film.

Ruth Gordon is predictably hilarious as Cliff's grandmother ("Bats, bats!") whether getting tipsy and flirting with the married guests or dispensing relationship advice to her grandson ("never hit a woman . . . men think they want that . . . they don't!" )

One forgets how young Matt Dillon, Joan Cusack were when they started and both are terrific here.

A terrific little film with enormous heart.

Excellent - 16 December 2004
Whatever happened to Chris Makepeace?  This kid could act. He was my hero growing up. There was nobody I could relate to more. I mean there was the Terminator, Rocky, Rambo, Conan, and other big muscle heroes. They did not speak to me. I felt no connection to them. Don't get me wrong I loved those films...Yes even Rocky 5 ("You knocked him down...why don't you try knocking' me down?"), but it was the loser weakling portrayed in My Bodyguard, the kid who could not find a friend at camp in Meatballs, and the horny teenager in Vamp I felt instantly akin to.

My Bodyguard had me searching the hallways of my High School for someone to protect me. I never found my Adam Baldwin, but this movie taught me to stick up for myself. There were plenty of Matt Dillon's in my high school just waiting to steal my lunch money, and mess up the way I looked.

This film had some high drama in it as well. I am not one of those that likes to write spoilers so I will just say that I had an unexpected welling of emotion in one scene. If I ever wrote a script, I would seek out the talents of Chris Makepeace.

A timeless, compelling and thoughtful movie about facing odds. - 15 April 2005
This movie rings true on so many different levels. I find this a real gem because no matter how many times I watch it I find it compelling and refreshingly straightforward. Chris Makepeace is cast perfectly as a reluctant victim of extortion by Matt Dillon's high school band of thugs. Adam Baldwin relays a sense of pain, anguish, and grief that you can nearly touch. What can you say about Matt Dillon (Moody)? Anyone who has ever been bullied will squirm in their seat after watching him for just ten minutes. This is one of those special movies that will appeal to so many different people. Haven't we all been to high school? been bullied at some point? got caught up in ridiculous rumor and innuendo? if so, then definitely take time to watch this timeless classic.

Excellent teen film - 13 September 2006
Those people who have seen Matt Dillon only in more recent films, such as "Factotum" and "Crash," have missed arguably the best work of the first phase of his acting career. That I felt so incensed by Melvin Moody, Dillon's "My Bodyguard" character, tells me what a talent Dillon had for playing the part of the incorrigible schoolboy who makes physically weaker students dread every school day.

Though, of all the cast members Dillon incited me the most -- I wished I could enter the film so that I could shove Melvin Moody down a flight of stairs -- no actor left me feeling unmoved. Several actors, in fact, impressed me as much as did Dillon.

Despite the familiar themes of friendship and loyalty and the often-employed plot involving campus hoodlums and their victims, the performances in this movie were thought provoking as well as entertaining, apparently because this film's writers seemed to make a point of avoiding uni-faceted characters.

Fun-loving Gramdma Peache (Ruth Gordon), for example, showed that she also had a capacity for compassion and kindness, just as sullen, intimidating Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin) became less defensive, even easygoing, given the right setting. Well-adjusted Clifford Peache (Chris Makepeace), who spent much time fleeing Melvin Moody and his rowdy friends, too, could change, turning bold and feisty on a couple of occasions.

In contrast, the story doesn't include a scene in which Melvin Moody reveals a part of himself that, let's say, he would prefer to keep hidden, such as his cowering in the presence of a verbally and physically abusive father. Matt Dillon performs so naturally, however, that the story does not suffer by including a prototypical bully.

One Of Those Movies I Never Tire Of - 18 July 2005
So, I was watching the new Fox series, "The Inside" the other night and marveling at how handsome and young and talented Adam Baldwin still is and I realized that the film I fell for him in is 25 years old! How time flies! I saw "My Bodyguard" in the theatre in 1980 with a friend from high school the very first time her parents allowed her to hang out with me. They were very protective and thought I was some kind of hood. I totally was not! I was a good kid who was perceived as nothing by the real bad kids in my school. I was invisible, for the most part. But I was bullied a lot from time to time. And during one really bad year, I did the bullying. You do what you're taught. And there were a couple of years there where I just couldn't get along with anyone. The movie meant a lot to me at a time when I probably really needed it.

Adam Baldwin was so completely adorable in this movie that I must've seen it 20 times over the years. I identified with Clifford, of course. But I just loved Linderman. I've seen most of Adam's stuff. Even some of the cheesy direct-to-video crap. Well, I was in the video business for a while, it didn't cost me anything. He's always better than the material he's given. When they cut him loose, he's great. And it's no harm that he's extensively easy on the eyes.

I love Tony Bill. He has made some terrific, very underrated movies in his time. Anyone seen "Five Corners"? God, I love that movie.

Having been a Ruth Gordon fan since I first Saw "Harold & Maude" at an art-house when I was a kid, it was a delight watching her granny-gone-wild act in "My Bodyguard". Martin Mull was sweetly droll as he tried to curb her as best he could and be there for his son amid the chaos of them all living inside his career.

Had anyone ever before seen a family living in a big-city luxury hotel that the dad's trying to run? What a delicious touch! How boring would this film be without the hijinks at the hotel? In fact, all the locations were exceptionally well-utilized.

Would it scare any of you that I can hear the musical score in my head as I write this? It really is one of "those" films for me. It stuck with me. Even though I never owned the score, I remember the music. The character-driven semi-classical score by Dave Grusin is refreshing. If you've never seen this film, you owe it to yourself to partake. Most especially if you were anywhere near the range of 10-20 years old in 1980. And it's finally on DVD!

Outstanding teen movie - 21 December 2003
When My Bodyguard was released in the summer of 1980, the teen movie genre was in its infancy. We would soon be assaulted with countless flicks about horny teens and their libidos. This film stands above that pack. Anyone attending high school during this period (as I was) will feel for Clifford Peache. An outstanding teen movie, it launched the careers of Joan Cusack, Adam Baldwin, and in a tiny and unfortunately uncredited role, Jennifer Beals. The adults also shine in their roles (especially Ruth Gordon, in one of her last screen appearances). The story holds up and is believable. The one small complaint I have is the film somehow feels like one of those ABC Afterschool Specials. Anyway, if you want to see a teen movie before the genre imploded with vulgarity, rent My Bodyguard. You won't be disappointed.

* My favorite scene in My Bodyguard:

There are a bunch of good scenes in this movie, including a couple of gut punches that you don't really see coming and they hit you hard.  The scene where Clifford finds out what happened to Linderman's brother (from the teacher) is a particularly good one.  And I remember the bike scene at the lake just absolutely destroyed me when I was a little kid.  That was the first scene in a movie that really taught me how mean people could be in the world.

My Bodyguard at the IMDB

My Bodyguard at Wikipedia

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