After watching some episodes of FX’s Baskets, I started to remember this movie from the ’80s. It was one of my favourite movies when I really was into stand up comedy. It had a lot recognizable stand-up comedians of the 1980s in this summer comedy, like Louis Anderson, Richard Belzer, Richard Lewis, Tim Thomerson and Franklyn Ajaye. This was one funny ensemble comedy of different personality types reuniting to go on a camping trip after not really seeing each other for almost 20 years.
This film is supposed to be a spoof on the culture of the boy scouts which was written and directed by Danny Bilson, who mostly does video game production now known for producing the film The Rocketeer (1991). It has an attempt of comedy with all of the nostalgic scenes of childhood memories and not what they remembered it was like which is ironic when people are now looking back and watching this film and are having a similar reaction. It has a main character wanting to catch up with his grown friends while reminiscing about the one task that they never completed when they were 12. The Wrong Guys was made in the 1980s so there is a lot of over-the-top gun violence in a PG movie.
The movie starts with all of the characters in cub scout uniform showcasing all of their personalities in under two minutes each. They never received their highest badge the Arrow of Light from their Cub Scout Unit 7, Owl Patrol. Some time pass to present day and the camp leader decides to bring the gang back together to go camping in the same park, Mount Whitehead Park, that they got lost as kids and had to rely on their moms to find them and pick them up. They are now out of shape and really into their personal and professional lives. Once again showcasing their developed personalities from childhood. The main characters are a lot like their stand up personalities. Their character names are the same as the actors who play them. A nostalgia-driven Louis who is also their leader, a neurotic dentist Richard, a smooth jazz talking radio host Franklin, a laid back surfing instructor Tim and a handsy accessory designer Belz.
They go back into the National Park where they were very close into getting their badge for nostalgia sake. When they started their plans to go back in the forest a bunch of their ex Lodge group members turned bullies notice that they are planning to do something fun and follow them out into the forest too because they thought it was going to be fun just like old times to rain on their parade.
Another group of people decide to hide out in the National Park after their mug shots were televised all over the area. On the radio and television breaks foreshadowing trouble ahead were the broadcasts of Duke Earle with other criminals who helped him escape and a lot of machine guns. One of their associates were shot at a kitschy pancake/waffle house celebrating all of the 50 states after an altercation about his 50 year prison sentence with the restaurant owner. They hide out in a cabin that’s located in the park completely (in their perspective) away from people. The criminals are played by Timothy Van Patten, Ernie Hudson and John Goodman. Goodman is the hot-headed leader whose paranoid and always on edge. This was most likely John Goodman’s first of many villainous characters that he played.
When the mid to late 30 year old men set up camp with a little amount of knowledge about camping that they remember, Louis hangs up the flag with the same number 7 logo with matching colours. Understandably Duke misinterprets the information as unit 7 FBI setting camp thinking that he was going after him. On top of acknowledging that more time (almost life) will be added onto his sentence.
After a campfire tale of a crazed yet fictional one-armed man, Duke decides to shoot up the camping place. In the middle of the night, Richard’s sleeping pill wears off and freaked out about the story of the one-armed man and his missing friends believing that something happened to them he drags Louis out with him to search for them. But Belz and Tim are not missing. They are crashing an all women’s resort looking for “some action”.
The Grunski’s are having a lazy time at the park being attacked by squirrels and making a huge mess with beer cans and junk food. Mark has a dream about his childhood which gives more insight into the reasons why he was kicked out of the cub scouts. But the added-on exposition was information already established at the beginning of the film. The squirrel that eats their junk food is on a weird grudge hunt of the messy pair after a can was thrown at him. It looks like they used an actual squirrel for all of the little scenes for the critter. They are brief scenes that rely on the actor to setup what just happened to the food, the car, etc. No little critters were harmed in the making of this film.
All of the characters pair up in twos. Richard and Louis, Belz and Tim, Dawson and Kid, Franklin and Duke into small plot lines take to tell the more complex part of the story. The scenes would just cut from one story arc to another after a break of conversion. Nothing to fancy with the camera work. After Louis and Richard burst into the cabin axe in hand where the kid and Dawson are contemplating leaving Duke because the kid needs medical attention and Duke is too volatile to be around. After Dawson tells the campers about the hot-headed escapee thinking that they are FBI now on the hunt for them, the campers explain to them that are just campers on a reunion outing. Shocked and eager to get out of the park away from the psycho. They manage to round up the whole gang alive and venture out of the grounds. They end up indoctrinating the Grunski’s into the group due to the emergency.
Dawson tries telling Duke that they’re the wrong guys and to leave them alone. Out of paranoia, Duke kills Dawson with the campers witnessing the whole murder. They freak out and run away into the woods.
The end up lost on the same route that they took when they were younger. While they were reminiscing if Richard or Belz lost the supplies knapsack, Louis falls in the exact same spot. Belz finds the knapsack when he’s lying on it. It still had a supply of rope, Tim’s knife, Louis’ cub scout handbook, a telescope and Richard’s “fizzies”. Richard points out that if the fizzies are still in the knapsack it wasn’t him that lost the bag. They start to plan to escape the crazed man after them would be to raft across the river.
Duke after this point turns into a one-note character just out to find and hunt them down. He pops up on top of the mountain, then in the river, then in the muddy marshland all times carrying a machine gun with an endless supply of bullets. His character is just angry yet terrible after this point.
When Louis misreads the map, Tim volunteers to go over the waterfall where he calls for help based on what the movie repeats continuously. It has a noticeably bad video effect of Tim in the waterfall but it’s just a few minutes and there were worst over the years.
This film is inconsistent with how the characters are supposed to act like. Mark holds a gun at his fellow cub scouts for award money only to be immediately forgiven with cub scout honours. And the film is also repetitive with the same established information from the first half hour. It repeats how the Grunski’s were kicked out of the cub scouts, how Belz lost the knapsack and how their mothers found them and saved the day. It’s not annoying but it was very noticeable. As a kid, I never noticed it that much that anytime they mentioned it was obvious. It was almost like a marker to the story of where it was going. As an adult now watching this film, it looks repetitive and is still a well-told story with layers. At any age, I was able to follow the story and get the humour with the same reactions to their punchlines.
The film did mediocre in the box office, mediocre with critics and some people might have forgotten about this flick which would be ashamed. The film opened the same weekend of a Rob Lowe film Illegally Yours around the same time his sandal might have overshadowed other film.
It’s campy without being too 80’s. This could be because it takes place in the woods and they are not talking about modern 80’s technology or pop culture. The only time it seemed very ’80s would be the introduction of the Grunski’s wives. It’s a very simple film that’s nostalgic without feeling dated.
Also, in many descriptions of this film it says that they are middle-aged men but they are mot middle-aged men if they are in their mid to late 30s. They would be just men just a little geeky.
This film gets 3 out of 5 stars.