The upcoming romantic comedy Playing for Keeps may not look particularly enticing, but keep in mind that it’s written by Robbie Fox, who gave us the clever script for So I Married an Axe Murderer about 20 years ago. Of course, he followed that with a story credit on the Pauly Shore vehicle In the Army Now (which was rewritten) before disappearing for two decades — I’m only aware of one spec script he sold in 1999 for a time travel-based divorce comedy titled Twice Upon a Time, which has never been produced. He’s also done some uncredited work through his career, including rewrites on My Girl, but for the most part his output is unknown and inconsistent. Still, I thought it would be fun to go back to the beginning of his career and watch 25-year-old short film titled The Great O’Grady.
Fox directed the 30-minute film in addition to scripting, and his father, twice-Oscar-nominated composer/songwriter Charles Fox, provided the score. While the IMDb listing puts its release as 1993 (the year of Axe Murderer and likely when it aired on Showtime), The Great O’Grady was a selection of both the Sundance Film Festival and the Houston Film Festival, where it was named Best Comedy Short, in 1988. This explains why the cast looks so young. Keith Coogan, who was between babysitter movies at the time, stars alongside Meredith Salenger and Tom Hodges, who you likely know by face if not name. Hodges is in Lucas, actually, and this short is pretty reminiscent of that teen movie, only instead of football being the central sport, here it’s spitting.
Yes, spitting. The joke of this premise may be hard to go along with unless, like me, you could never hock a loogie and envied the kids who could. Anyway, the film is barely a comedy after a while, and it ends rather depressingly. But I grew up a fan of the actors, having enjoyed Coogan in such little-remembered guilty pleasures as Hiding Out, Toy Soldiers and Book of Love. Other players of note here are future voice of Bart Simpson, Nancy Cartwright, and — for people of my generation — Brooke Thiess (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4; Just the Ten of Us; 90210) and Andrew Koenig (Growing Pains’s “Boner”), who both have tiny roles. According to IMDb, director Brian DePalma has a cameo as well, but I don’t believe it’s him.
Take a blast to the past and check out The Great O’Grady in three parts below: