Based on the novel by best-selling Glendon Swarthout (surprisingly, the same author of the westerns “They Came To Cordura,” and “The Shootist”), “Where the Boys Are” was potent stuff in its day. Whereas the youth of the period were always shown as fun-lovin' kids dancing to rock acts, or as marauding hooligans out to destroy the safety nets of the average white nuclear family, this modestly-budgeted film with just a few stars became a box-office sensation. Partly bolstered by a popular theme song, the film was unique for its obvious inference that them kids are having pre-marital sex; far more risqué when cinematic rebellion included such serious no-nos as missing dad's curfew by a half hour.
“Boys” inadvertently set up the mould that pretty much all teen and youth comedies are cast from, except in this case the girls receive the most screen time, wise-cracks, and philosophizing; the boys just kind of drift into scenes or tagalong as comic relief. Some of the cast members seem a few years older than their characters, but lanky Jim Hutton is fun as Prentiss' eventual beau; George Hamilton bleeds his usual tanned, confident movie star persona; and Frank Gorshin steals scenes as the bass player of his ‘dialectic jazz' combo (performances dubbed by Pete Rugolo).
Paul Prentiss made her screen debut with “Boys,” and she describes, in her lighthearted commentary track, producer Joe Pasternak's guiding hand that plucked her from a college acting career into a major co-starring role as the girl-next-door. There's a few gaps and minor repetition in spots, but Prentiss possesses one heck of a soothing voice. There's also various nods to her cast mates, including a glowing Yvette Mimieux as the ‘loose' girl whose character arc follows the Production Code guidelines of just moral desserts; and star Dolores Hart.(After appearances in a handful of films - and giving Elvis Presley his first onscreen kiss - Hart retired from movies and became a mother superior. Her character discussions with Hamilton on nookie, and being a girl of experience, are oddly more amusing.)
The retrospective featurette assembles interviews with Prentiss and co-star Connie Francis, using generous film and still clips to illustrate their memories of the film's production & publicity tour. The best moment involves Francis, herself at the time a nascent (and disinterested) actress, who recounts the genesis of the film's immortal theme song (co-written by Neil Sedaka).
A seminal film in the annals of teen comedy/dramas, written with a surprisingly amount of wit and intelligence.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan
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