Color, 1986, 87 mins. 27 secs.
Directed by David Beaird
Starring Deborah Foreman, Sam J. Jones, Sean McClory, Howard Hesseman, E.G. Marshall, Penn and Teller, Julius Harris
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Part of a successful bid by drive-in veteran Crown International to jump into the post-Porky's teen sex comedy craze (see also: Tomboy and My Tutor), My Chauffeur is a buoyant snapshot of 1980s Los Angeles that serves as a perfect showcase for leading lady Deborah Foreman. A popular title on cable TV throughout the late '80s, it's the kind of featherweight but lovable diversion meant to be enjoyed either in full or bite-sized chunks when you're wandering in and out of the room.
A big shakeup's in store at the boy's club of the Brentwood Limousine Limited service when a new motor-mouthed driver shows up in the form of bubbly Valley girl Casey (Foreman). Despite the protests of manager McBride (WKRP's Hesseman), Casey proves she's been legitimately hired by company head Witherspoon (Marshall) and can't wait to start driving all over L.A. Numerous misadventures ensue as she takes her Rolls Royce for a spin through Beverly Hills and up and down Mullholland, turning out to be a popular chauffeur despite the doubts of her male coworkers during her trial period. It isn't an easy gig though, with challenges including cranky clients like a trashy British rocker and a possible romance with buttoned-up financial brat Battle (Flash Gordon's Jones) who starts to transform thanks to her charms.
Though it doesn't have much in the way of plot and the ending's a foregone conclusion, My Chauffeur sails past many of its peers on the strength of Foreman, one of the most beloved cable-ready actresses of the era who never quite became a major star for some reason. She always gave 100% to her roles from her first starring vehicle, Valley Girl, through favorites like April Fool's Day and Waxwork, and she's in fine form here as well. She does a particularly good job with her rapid-fire dialogue, which is clearly patterned after classic Hollywood screwball comedies (especially Midnight and a cabin detour reminiscent of It Happened One Night) but also proves she would have been right at home on the patter-loaded Gilmore Girls as well. The supporting cast is loads of fun in that broad '80s comedy way as well, with the always welcome Julius Harris (best known as Tee Hee from Live and Let Die) getting in some especially priceless reaction shots as one of the older drivers. Jones also shows off his comic chops as well (way before spoofing himself in Ted), softening a potentially nasty character with just the right touch of broad humor including his first encounter with Foreman as he's being dumped by his pregnant socialite girlfriend and can't quite express himself until he senselessly goes streaking through a park. It's fun to spot L.A. locations all the way through, with the opening scene (showing Casey's stint as a dishwasher) providing a good look at the still-standing Micelli's off of Hollywood Blvd. And for celeb spotters, keep an eye out for an early appearance by Penn and Teller, who do a little sleight of hand in their improbable roles as a sheik and a con artist. This being a Crown film there's some incidental topless nudity provided by a few female extras and a few dirty jokes (not to mention a twisty, soapy series of revelations at the end that almost get very, very perverse), but overall it's an oddly innocent and endearing film that doesn't try to do anything too far outside of the box.
My Chauffeur has been a video mainstay since the VHS days with various DVD editions popping up including a 2006 standalone from BCI/Eclipse, VHS and DVD editions from Rhino, and a pair of multi-movie packs from Mill Creek, School Dazed and the Too Cool for School Collection. All of those are rendered irrelevant by the dual-format Vinegar Syndrome release, which sports a fresh 2K scan from the original negative. Crown's trend of keeping its titles in prime condition pays off here again with a gorgeous transfer that looks sparkling and fresh throughout; that clarity also means you can clearly see some sloppiness in the film's editing like Foreman's driving reaction shots which clearly don't match at all between some close ups and wide exteriors (like the end of the Penn and Teller sequence). The DTS-HD English mono track (on the Blu-ray) sounds pristine and does enough justice to the innocuous pop and rock songs populating the soundtrack, with optional English subtitles provided. A low-key but informative audio commentary with writer-director David Beaird and actor Leland Crooke moderated by Elijah Drenner covers the entire history of the film, from Beaird's hiring on the strength of The Party Animal through the rewriting and casting process for what would be one of the more upscale titles in the Crown library. A second commentary with production assistant Jeff McKay announces itself as "unconventional" off the bat as he takes a loose, ground-level look at the making of the film including memories of Penn and Teller, thoughts on the many locations, and the various shots in which he can be glimpsed as an extra. Of course, this release wouldn't be complete without Foreman itself, who turns up for a new featurette, "License to Drive" (15m59s). As expected she's very sunny and charming here as she chats in depth about the casting process, a potentially sordid scene that was cut from the film, the rehearsal process, her good rapport with Southern men, the box office shenanigans pulled by Crown, and the film's status as her favorite among her work. Also included are an isolated music track for the feature, the original trailer, a trio of TV spots, and a gallery of production stills, with the usual reversible art options including a retro design by Derek Gabryszak.
Reviewed on July 21, 2017.