I get a lot of DVDs from Disney’s Buena Vista Home Video division, and love them for it. Unlike most DVD distributors who only cough up screeners to us after much begging, pleading, and cajoling, Buena Vista tends to just drop everything they release in the mail to me. Every week I get a sack of Buena Vista titles delivered to my doorstep for review. Sound great doesn’t it? But the problem is the contents of that sack. For every copy of The Incredibles that shows up a few weeks early, I get ten copies of straight-to-video garbage, the sort of movies that I’ll never find time to watch or review and that there’s little benefit in bothering with anyway.
Last week was more of the same. I received the usual stack of irrelevant titles, princess movies, and talking children’s choo-choos, or so I thought. Then I noticed something different. Titled “Reform School Girl”, it proudly bore an R rating and a cover that made it look a lot like soft-core porno. Wondering if Disney had really drifted into the seedy world of Night Eyes 2, I had to check it out.
Reform School Girl is exactly what you think, a movie about bad school girls forced to wear tight outfits and eventually turn to one another for affection. When did Disney get into this genre? As an item for those of prurient interests it delivers the minimum required amount of gratuitous nudity and lesbian heavy petting, while at the same time struggling to find an inner level of artistic integrity to justify it. There’s a Girl, Interrupted trapped somewhere in there, only the script never seems to find it.
Originally made for TV in 1994 (Showtime Late Nights we can safely assume), the real reason this has been released is a pivotal bit role played by a very young Matt LeBlanc. I suppose it was being clamored for by LeBlanc completists, but his acting here is little better than the stilted monstrosities he blathered out in Lost in Space. He exists in the film primarily to get the lead character Donna thrown in reform school and subsequently corrupted. Played by Aimee Graham (Yes, Heather Graham’s less hot sister.), Donna is a good girl stuck living with her incest loving Uncle in the fifties. She goes out for a night on the town with her friends, and ends up blamed for a crime she didn’t commit. Since it gets her away from the rape shack she lives in with her Uncle, you’d think she’d embrace the juvenile justice system, but Donna worries about the little sister still stuck at home.
She quickly adjusts to life at her new reform school, where she discovers that running fast can earn early release. Later, she’ll choose to stay imprisoned longer in order to prove some sort of childish, dumb ass point, but most of the movie is about her hanging with the other inmates and wanting to get the hell out. Mixed in there is an abruptly introduced lesbian love affair, and a few flashes to what’s going on in the outside world, including a scene where Matt LeBlanc gets to roughly grope naked breasts. “Friends” fans will no doubt enjoy that.
At the end of the day, Reform School Girl doesn’t have enough interesting content to justify itself as a legitimate movie, but neither does it have quite enough sex and nudity to earn its place on a shelf with Shannon Tweed. It’s a weird release, with little value except as brief, poorly done titillation. There’s some attempt to find something more, but whatever deeper level Jonathan Kaplan is looking for definitely isn’t there. Reform School Girl is only worth watching if you’re an over-sexed pervert with nothing better to do, or a film critic who’s curious to see what the heck is up with Disney.
Now granted, Miramax is technically a part of the Disney family and we expect this sort of thing from them. But what Miramax does and what Disney does, despite singular ownership are usually very different things. Miramax is the seedy (and also successful) side of Disney, while Buena Vista handles the stock Disney video releases, most of them starring Hillary Duff dancing with animated penguins. Until they started “Gay Day” a few years back at Walt Disney World, I’d always assumed Disney didn’t even know lesbians exist. Not only to they know they exist, someone over there likes releasing movies about them in prison. I guess BV pushing this out through their Dimension division allows them to disavow any knowledge of it. That's that tact I'd be taking.
I doubt this is any sort of new trend from Buena Vista; no doubt someone will email me after I publish this with a list of similar Buena Vista T&A titles. Still, it’s news to me, and I’ve got to wonder if they’ll do more of this in the future, should say… someone dig up an old Bob Saget Skinemax movie.
The disc itself is pretty empty, this is after all an old, crappy, made for late-night cable TV movie. It’s not like it has fans out there clamoring for director’s commentary. The thing is bare bones: scene selection, play the movie. What do you expect? You’re not buying this for the features, you’re buying it for $1.99 price and the scintillating cover which features a woman scantily clad.