Punk Vacation (1990)

Question: What do punks do on their vacation? And what exactly do they need a vacation from? Being punk isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle, and you can’t take a vacation from a lifestyle. Some one-percenter isn’t going to say, you know, I need a break from my $32,000 worth of boat shoes. Punks aren’t going to take a break from being punk — that wouldn’t be very punk. My point is that in this movie, punks are on vacation but you really shouldn’t overthink it. Just accept it and move on. Also accept that this is one of those movies where the title is better than the movie itself.

A father and his young daughter are winding down another day of business at their diner. A punk rolls up on his motorcycle and puts some change into a vending machine. The machine does not vend. The punk gets angry and kicks the machine, though, in his defense, it really does suck when you put money into a machine and get nothing in return. It’s like, all I want is this Snickers! I want to be satisfied! Give me satisfaction!

The punk starts slapping the machine and the father busts out a double-barrel shotgun. He would like the punk “git.” But the punk is upset. He’s lost 40¢. “I’ve lost all the money I have in the world!” Being punk does not pay, which makes going on vacation all the more difficult.

Quickly the rest of the punks arrive and a fight ensues.

Remember when Green Day did that acoustic song and everyone was like, oh shit, you totally sold out, and Green Day was like no, fuck you, this is the most punk thing we’ve ever done. And then they bought big houses in Newport Beach, which was the second most punk thing they’ve ever done. In this movie, the punks are as punk as Green Day — meaning that one is wearing a bandana.

Another is so tough he has a dangling earring. On his right ear.

Another is too tough to have hair.

Another has a cage of rats tied to his bike. He wears round sunglasses, the kind that John Lennon wore. Lennon, if you recall, was the lead singer of Green Day.

Another punk has a switchblade. He rips open the young daughter’s shirt. No nudity, so don’t get excited. There may or may not be an assault that is sexual in nature. The father is on the ground, lifeless.

Lisa is heartbroken. Her father is dead and her little sister is in a catatonic state of shock. Lisa wants revenge. Lisa is not on vacation. Meanwhile the town sheriff wants to get rid of those “Communist, fascist pinkos” and then something about General Patton and Iwo Jima. Quick reminder, this movie was made in 1990.

From here Punk Vacation languishes into a mediocre-at-best revenge story with no defining insanity. There are no moments that excite, stun, amuse, or even confuse. The closest we get to fun is a scene where people look at each other through binoculars. Also, a man falls on his dick. Otherwise, there are no wild antics — the kind you’d expect from punks — and of course there is no punk music. Instead, there’s a song that sounds somewhere between Cinderella and Wilson Phillips. Clearly, one-time director Stanley Lewis had never seen a punk in his life. He just assumed that punks look like Ziggy Stardust and ride motorcycles. They wear lacy fingerless gloves and toss bodies into a campfire. They do their nails, sunbathe on rocks, and fence with sticks. They have ROTC and “military training.” They have names like Flo, Coach, Sinbad, Fudge, and Ramrod (who is a lady and the gang leader). Side note: Our very own Joe Ziemba literally has an Aunt Flo. She isn’t punk, but she is 92 years old.

But the shining moments of the movie come through the dialogue. The conversations among the punks are entertaining and even more misguided than the punks themselves.

“This gang stuff is going nowhere. Maybe we should go to stewardess school or something.”
“No electronics training, that’s where it’s at.”
“What? Electronics training?”
“The computer revolution took off without enough people to repair computers.”

If you think this sounds like an ad for DeVry, then you are not mistaken.

“Maybe I’ll get back to the band.
“Oral Aggression . . . that band is really . . . nowhere.”

Other good band names: Hairy Tongue, Burning Mouth Syndrome, Tartar, Halitosis.

In one scene, Ramrod goes on a lunch run for the gang.

“What do we want?”
“No way!”

There is a discussion and, with a show of hands, the gang decides on “the Colonel.”

“Does everyone want slaw and potato salad?”

I expected the conversation to turn to Tums, which has “something your body needs anyway,” but it did not.

Even though the dialogue is entertaining, it can’t sustain the movie on its own and ultimately the novelty of these non-punks-on-vacation fade. What’s left behind is unsatisfying. This movie has no overall flavor that you can savor. The movie is not spicy or salty or sweet. It isn’t chewy or crispy or grisly. Sometimes at lunch when I don’t know what to eat, I just settle on a stupid sandwich. I basically eat just to eat and get it over with. This is what Punk Vacation is like. It’s just there for your consumption, but there are far better options. It’s like Blimpie’s.

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