Prayer of the Rollerboys – 1990, Rick King
The website IMDB.com credits Canadian born Corey Haim as having 48 known roles as an actor, and as having enjoyed a career which spanned more than two decades in both television, and film. For much of his youth, Haim was a big name, who grabbed tabloid headlines effortlessly and routinely scored leading roles in popular movies. If one were to collectively gather the sum total of his work and cut it all together into one massive montage, you would have days and days worth of footage, and there would be, throughout his acting career, in totality, fewer than three minutes total where Corey Haim’s mouth wasn’t sagging open like a damn trout. That was his look. “The Mouthbreather.” People seemed to be okay with it. Behold.
“An open mouth is an open mind.” – Confusedcius
Coming in toward the “has-been” era of Haim’s acting career we have Prayer For The Rollerboys, surprisingly, it’s one of the more solid films featuring this young Proto-Bieber. While it’s not a great movie, it’s also not a terrible one, which is shocking to say the least, given that it’s about Corey Haim on Rollerblades. I was actually super disappointed, this movie ISN’T utter shit. What am I supposed to do now?!
THE PLOT~ Griffin and his little brother Miltie are orphans a hostile and economically devastated America of the Not-Too-Distant-Future. Here, basic human rights are jeopardized constantly, all businesses and institutions have relocated to foreign soil, and poverty is universal, save for an extravagantly wealthy few. It’s an America where the previous generations have governed things so poorly that any hope for prosperity or opportunity have been completely stamped out, and where the basic freedoms guaranteed you in the constitution of the United States of America are no longer protected. So, basically, it’s right now; this movie is an incredibly accurate prediction of the year 2015. It’s fucking creepy.
The only real difference between the world you see when you look out your window and the world you would see if you hit PLAY on Prayer of the Rollerboys, is that in the movie; the presence of organized gangs openly congregating is slightly more apparent. The most powerful gang in this film are the titular Rollerboys, a wealthy and powerful white supremacist crime syndicate who rollerskate around town wearing giant coats and who peddle a designer drug called Mist to everybody and they’s momma. The Rollerboys are a major problem for what remains of the police force, and truthfully, they’re poised to potentially make a power grab that would make them unstoppable if somebody doesn’t step up and do something about it very soon. Enter COREY HAIM:
Through coincidence, Griffin (Haim) grew up with Gary Lee, the charismatic and brilliant leader of the Rollerboys, and Gary Lee seems to really cherish their childhood memories together. Although Griffin is in no way cool with racism, drugs, or the world according to the Roller-Fuhrer, this connection makes him an ideal candidate for a police led operation to infiltrate this dangerous gang and take them down, from the inside. Griffin is initially not interested, you see, he already rollerblades a lot- but when you leave your mouth hanging open constantly, like he does, rollerblading can be difficult because you swallow so many bugs. He’s unsure if he can commit to rollerblading even more often, which is what it would mean for him to infiltrate the Rollerboys, but he eventually agrees. Also, Patricia Arquette is in this movie, and she dresses like a damn crazy person. I dunno, maybe you’re into that.
So, it’s a quasi-post-apocalyptic, gang warfare/cop film staring Corey Haim that involves a hell of a lot of roller blading. Sounds utterly insane, right? Well, yeah, for sure it does, but then you watch it, and it just isn’t. So… what the hell is going on? Can we isolate why this movie isn’t really shitty? Let’s break it down:
THE ROLLERBLADING: This is yet another film which displays the commonly held, pre-1994 belief that the future would belong to people on roller skates. That, in-and-of-itself should guarantee this movie be at least 30% goofy- and I think we pretty much get the minimum rollerskate related WTFs possible out of it. They definitely rollerblade, constantly, when the bad guys get arrested they don’t even take their skates off, they just roll them over into the squad-cars, inlines intact- so that’s periodically pretty silly, but beyond everyone simply skating around all the time, there isn’t a lot of skate related content here. They don’t really do any tricks or jumps or anything, the movie opens with a brief sequence of Haim ripping it up at a skatepark, but that’s really the extent of it. They also don’t really harp on the skates being cool, they just kind of pass them off as a fact of life in the future, so with this, we see many, many missed opportunities for this film to have pissed me off. As a matter of fact, it actually wouldn’t be difficult to forget that you’re watching a movie where two thirds of the cast have wheels fastened to their feet at all times, and that’s completely insane. Given that I expected Prayer of the Rollerboys to glorify the skates in the same fashion that BMX Bandits fetishizes bikes, I was a little taken aback by how not stupid the rollerblading is here. They really left me hanging.
THE FUTURE: So, this is a post-apocalyptic movie, right? Well, here’s how post-apocalyptic it is: It’s SO post-apocalyptic, that in this movie, the pizza delivery guys all carry machine guns, in case anyone gives them trouble… But it’s not so post-apocalyptic that we don’t have pizza delivery guys. They even have to wear lame little uniforms, like the people who work at Pizza Hut or something, so how post-apocalyptic can it possibly be if you can still pay for a human to drive a pizza to your door anytime you want?! Not post-apocalyptic at all, that’s how. I would imagine that restaurant-to-home pizza delivery would be one of the first services we would lose in the event of an apocalypse.
Actually, I’m only a little bit kidding when I say that the future depicted in this movie feels eerily in line with what we’ve seen happening in the United States just recently; I would say that this depiction of the future isn’t so much imaginative as it is speculative. Which is unbelievable. Fact: The wackiest thing about this movie is the juxtaposition of far fetched ideas, like rollerblading, teenaged gangsters, with markedly more reserved economic speculation and sociological predictions. It’s the weirdest bait and switch ever, it’s like someone sold us something with the promise that it was going to be just terrible, and then when we got it home we found out it actually didn’t suck. Are you kidding me? This movie is completely fine! Thanks for nothing!
THE QUALITY: Nobody even did a bad job! The dumbest things in this movie are Patricia Arquette’s wardrobe and Corey Haim’s face, but the technical crafstamnship is perfectly adequate! They didn’t even fall prey to old stand-bye pitfalls, like shitty soundtracks, or flavor of the month stylistic gimicks. I am horrified how well Prayer Of The Rollerboys holds up; in fact, due to the shift in economic realities we are now experiencing, this movie might be even BETTER now than when it came out. Damn it! Skunked again!
THE COREY: Let’s get one thing straight; I hate Corey Haim. I always have. I don’t even care that I’m mocking a dead man, I hate both the Coreys, and that has been my official stance on them since day one. Haim especially is heinous, because at least Feldman was Tommy Jarvis, Donatello and Mouth. When I popped this movie into my VCR, this kid was skating his dumb, open maw right into my trap, and it was my every intention to come down on him and his dumb ass rollerblade movie with the furious might of Thor… And yet… Dammit, he did a good job. This movie isn’t very shitty at all, but the problems that it does have cannot fairly be blamed on Haim. His performance is strong, even if his role is flimsy, and he’s barely even annoying. I don’t know what the hell happened, I really thought this one was in the bag, but apparently I’m living in topsy-turvy land, where up is down, left is right, and Corey Haim isn’t a bumbling jackass. I hate it.
Now; I’m not raving about this movie. It’s not a classic, it’s not a masterpiece, and it’s not a homerun…. But it is, no question, light-years less shitty than I ever dreamed it would be. Prayer of the Rollerboys is like a cunning conspiracy theory, you dismiss it outright, but the more you pay attention, the more it starts to make sense in your head. Whatever, Rollerboys. Just leave me alone.