1986, Miramax Productions
Eric Van Haren Noman
Daniel Jordano (Danny)
Matthew Penn (Spikes)
Leon W. Grant (Silk)
Mary B. Ward (Chloe)
Marisa Tomei (Tracy)
Jimmy Baio (Steinberg)
Harold Gould (Rockerfeller)
Robert Milli (Cromwell)
John Randolph Jones (Chief Sullivan)
Three best friends will do what it takes, without killing each other, to live out a dream in this comedy-drama directed by the Weinstein Brothers.
Upon graduating high school, best friends Spikes, Silk, and Danny soon realize that they will eventually have to go their separate ways. However, when Danny learns of an inheritance from his late great aunt of a hotel property in a small town, he finds an opportunity to possibly ensure that he and his friends will not have to be split apart. Spikes and Silk are very reluctant due to the constant failures of Danny’s ideas. However, when they hatch a successful scheme to gain the back taxes of the property, they head to the hotel.
What they find is that the place is a disaster area and even more the madness, a squatter by the name of Rockerfeller has taken over the hotel. Despite the obstacle, Danny, Spikes, and Silk, along with Spikes’ girlfriend Tracy are determined to make the hotel the first for teenagers who want a break for the norm. However, the town’s leader Cromwell wants the property for himself so he can turn the place into a chemical waste dump and is being paid nicely for his efforts. He turns the townsfolk against the youngsters with constant lies and things just get worse when Danny convinces other friends from school to join in on the hotel. Will the youngsters succeed to live their dreams or will Cromwell succeed in making his dream of a chemical waste dump happen?
A truly underrated 80’s gem about dreams and how to achieve them is well done by the Weinstein Brothers. What stands out is the young cast, led by Daniel Jordano as the film’s real dreamer Danny. Danny may have the aspirations of being a con man of sorts by trying to take the easy route. However, when he is given the opportunity to do the right thing and to do things the right way, he goes full speed ahead. Matthew Penn (son of famed director Arthur) and Leon W. Grant bring ample support as sports nut Spikes and music nut Silk. This trio play the best friends in constant sibling rivalry but work together to achieve their dreams.
Mary B. Ward is great as a local girl who becomes Danny’s love interest while a pre-Different World Marisa Tomei brings a little bit of the comic relief as Spikes’ girlfriend Tracy. The rest of Danny’s friends are quite fun to watch. One of the funniest is Jimmy Baio’s Steinberg, who upon his arrival at the hotel is constantly yelling out the window “Where are the beds?” and he only wants them for one reason.
Robert Milli is very sly and brings a very good villain in town leader Cromwell, who turns the local folk against the youngsters with the intention of betraying his own town by adding a chemical waste dump. Even though there are characters who start out as villains, they can see Cromwell’s lies but feel they can’t do anything about it but prove to be vital to Danny and the gang, who play a local game to prove Cromwell’s scheme in a last ditch effort to stop him once and for all.
Another factor in the film is the music, which opens with Pete Townshend’s “Life to Life” and has a great soundtrack including Duran Duran-spinoff Arcadia’s “Say the Word” and Julian Lennon’s take on the classic “Stand by Me” driving the film.
Playing for Keeps is a true underrated 80’s gem. While it may not have the likes of a John Hughes-classic, it holds its own with its story about living the dream and the obstacles our main characters must go through to make their dream come true.
WFG RATING: A-