The Last Days of Disco (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

OK, I admit it, our boomer generation is snobbish about nostalgia, especially among us New Yorkers. We remember riding with the Freedom Riders, smokin' dope with Abbie Hoffman and Mark Rudd at Columbia, and the night that Richie Havens played all night for free in that village coffee house. We have Cuban Missile, Woodstock, and the JFK assassination as the great markers of our youth, and our recollections seem to imbue these milestones with the significance of the French Revolution or the Renaissance, or the raising of Lazarus. (Hey, imagine the nostalgia when those apostles got together. Puts us to shame.)

So you can assume I'm going to make some snobby comments about this movie, which treats the end of the disco era, and may include some of your most revered memories, although I hope not. It's pretty damned hard to see how you younger guys can feel any great nostalgic reverence for Leo Sayer, or nights passed in places too noisy for conversation, wearing clothes that would be embarrassing even on the PGA tour. Put those mirror balls, away, boys. Rick Dees and Disco Lucy are just a faint memory.

But I'd probably like the movie a lot better if it got the period details correct, or if something happened. My personal favorite aspect is the fact that our protagonists actually hold down their pseudo-wise conversations in discos, sitting in relaxed poses, and speaking in normal tones of voice. In real life, most of the time those conversations consisted of "WHAT? You own a Buffalo? You have a Buffalo nickel? Oh, you LIVE in Buffalo!" This did have its advantages, in that you had to stick your mouth in a girl's ear in order for her to hear you without any shouting. The downside is that you also had to do this to speak to guys that looked like Harry Dean Stanton, except with more ear hair. So here's a tip for you youngsters. If you are going to make "The Days Immediately After the Last Days of Disco", remember that your characters can go to discos, but the actual philosophical conversations will have to take place later, in quieter places.

Also, if you are busy working on that script, do not crib wise quotes from the characters in Charles Schultz's "Peanuts". That's where they got all the dialogue in the first film. Perhaps you might try "Bloom County" instead for your sequel.


Jaid Barrymore's' breasts provided the only exposure in the film.
 The movie was supposed to be about smart folks having witty conversations. Unfortunately, the authors never actually met any smart folks or heard anything witty, so the dialogue in this movie makes an episode of "She's the Sheriff" seem in comparison to be as erudite as Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past". Pretty much all reviewers agreed that the dialogue was dopey and self-absorbed, but some critics claimed that it showed a masterful ear, and was a marvelous parody of those dopey self-absorbed times. OK, maybe. Ebert sure knows a helluva lot more about movies than I do, and he's usually right about these things, but I just don't want to listen to two hours of dopey, self-absorbed dialogue, whether it is intended as realism, or parody. Neither interpretation makes it any less dopey. Maybe this is brilliant parody if you actually knew the characters in the writers' life upon whom these characters are based. You might say to yourself, "whoa, he really got ol' Crockett Tubbs down pat". But I assume not that many of you guys knew ol' Crockett. Personally, I'm planning to write a parody of a guy I got paired with once when I went to the golf course by myself. Whoa, what a character that guy was. He did this thing when he talked, and he always said "that'll be handy", and I think he sold insurance or something. Oh, what a character. Man, I'll love that movie.

Well, the rest of you won't get it. You had to be there.

Here's the plot of "Last Days": the characters say stuff to each other. The girls appear to be Stepford Babes, delivering lines in monotones, without any emotion. The guys are creepy, sex-seeking narcissists who undoubtedly still buy the new issues of Silver Surfer every month, in order to complete the formation of their personal philosophies. They say some more stuff to each other at the club. One of the guys pairs off with the virginal girl. She gets laid and, gosh darn it all, gets VD in her very first try. Drat the luck. This requires them to say some more stuff until the credits start to roll. Near the end they say some stuff like "this disco era seems to be ending. I've never been part of something ending before". That's how you know the credits are near.

Well, they left plenty of room for a sequel.

Tuna's comments in yellow

The Last Days of Disco (1998) is a homage to a period that, thankfully, died in 1980. When reading my comments, keep in mind that I think of Disco Music and Disco Dancing as oxymorons. The film is about a group of Yuppies who interact in an exclusive Disco run by criminals. All of them are shallow, pretentious, self-serving pseudo-intellectuals who seem to have two agendas with regard to their peers -- have sex with them, or put them down viciously. Not much happens in the film other than insipid conversation about such important things as Lady and the Tramp as an establishment tool to teach women to be subservient to men. Yes, we do get to follow the investigation of the Disco club for tax evasion, and the eventual raid, which shuts the club down a few weeks before the death of Disco would have anyway, but that was hardly enough to sustain 112 minutes. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, and a full screen version

  • no meaningful features

The highlight for me was a touch of irony, when the least obnoxious character lost her virginity at her friend's suggestion, and got herpes and the clap in the process. Every single character was shallow, the boring conversations that are supposedly the highlight of the film could never have happened in a noisy disco.

I always watch a film and form my own opinions before reading reviews and comments from others. I was amazed when I started looking at comments and reviews to find that most people loved this film. I can understand a certain nostalgia for yuppies who lived the Disco era, but wondered if I had simply missed something about this film. Then I found Scoop's review from two years ago, and discovered that he found the film as devoid of merit as I did. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3.5/4, Berardinelli 3/4, 2.5/5, Maltin 3/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 77% good reviews.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6 
  • With their dollars ... minimal box office - $3 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. Endlessly talky, goes nowhere, sounds like an eighth grader's concept of what intelligent college types would talk like. Filled with loopy, self-absorbed dialogue that sounds like "Disco According to Peanuts"

Return to the Movie House home page