In defense of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’

Nostalgia is quite the powerful force.
It can make you look back on the rough periods of your life with
whitewashed longing or convince that you still love something, even
if you know now that it’s crappy.

We all have them, those things we loved
as children that no matter how old we get, or how much smarter are
brains grow, we stubbornly refuse to believe is bad.

For me, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is
just one of those things. I first
saw the film when I was 11; my mom borrowed it from a coworker, and
in an unprecedented move, she let me and my sister stay up way past
our bedtimes so we could watch it.

And until that
time, I had never seen anything as riotously funny as that movie. I
laughed so hard my sides were aching, but hey, what’s a bit of pain
in the face of such comedy?

Unfortunately,
time has not been so kind to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” It was
(rightly) dismissed at the time, and now the Berlin Wall has fallen,
the USSR is no more, and we all grew out of half-baked spy thrillers.
But
we
shouldn’t dismiss the movie out of hand; despite it’s flaws, there’s
a hidden story behind all the period trappings of this little movie.
Sure it’s funny (less so than I thought at 11, but still), but what
really works here is the idea that this
could
happen.

We meet Terry
(Whoopi Goldberg) on a typical day in her life; she goes to work,
comes home to a pop culture filled apartment, eats alone, sleeps
alone and repeats the process five days a week. It’s a boring life,
and a bit lonely, but it’s what she does and its what most people do.

Then one day, she
gets a message from a man who needs her help (the Jack of the title,
voiced by Jonathan Pryce), and suddenly, she’s living the life of a
film heroine. She’s getting chased by bad guys, infiltrating a
foreign embassy, making clandestine nighttime meetings and getting
kidnapped on a daily basis.

And in the end,
(spoilers) it all works out; she saves the day by shooting up her
office, gets a promotion, a new spy boyfriend, the whole shebang.
It’s every office drone’s dream – to make a big splash on the world
and do something that matters, not to mention experience one hell of
an adventure and live through it.

I’m not saying it’s
perfect, and it’s got some internal logic failings even my brain
can’t rationalize (Have the writers just not heard of time zones?),
but then I remember that little girl who watched “Jumpin’ Jack
Flash” with such glee, and who tried (and failed) to explain it’s
awesomeness to her best friend the next day.

In this crazy world
we’re living in, a workplace fantasy, no matter how unrealistic or
implausible, deserves a place in the canon (the cameos alone are
worth the trip; keep an eye out for a very young Phil Hartman).

And my 11-year-old
self wasn’t wrong; it’s still hilarious.

Jumpin’
Jack Flash” (1986)

Written
by David Franzoni, Charles Shyer, Nancy Meyers and Chris Thompson

Directed
by Penny Marshall

Starring:
Whoopi Goldberg (Terry)

Jonathan
Pryce (Jack)