|Thank God It's Friday (1978)
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Debra Winger, Chick Venerra, Marya Small, Donna Summer, Terri Nunn, and the Commodores
Director: Robert Klane
No-one is ever going to accuse “Thank God It’s Friday” of actually being a good movie, but in addition to being an occasionally silly artifact of the late ‘70s, it’s an enjoyable ensemble flick…and one that, interestingly, takes place almost entirely in and around one discothèque: The Zoo.
The subplots are legion, so it’s probably best that none of them are terribly complicated. Let’s see…to start, you’ve got the late Ray Vitte playing DJ Bobby Speed, who is on the verge of his big live-remote break when he discovers that the Commodores, who are to perform at the Zoo, are running late…and, when they do arrive, it’s without any equipment. Donna Summer gets an opportunity to poke fun at herself as Nicole Sims, an aspiring disco diva…and one, naturally, who saves the day for Bobby when she steps up to the microphone and knocks one out of the park with her performance of “Last Dance.” Jeff Goldbum plays Tony DiMarco, the owner of the Zoo, who’s apparently slept with half the women in his establishment but has found the one he thinks is Miss Right (Andrea Howard)…except that she’s actually Mrs. Right, and her husband (Mark Lonow) is in the disco as well, being seduced by a pink-haired vixen (Marya Small) who, based on the amount of drugs she has handy, must be a pharmaceutical rep by day. And speaking of which, there’s plenty of pot being smoked in the film; there’s even a comment – “It smells like my brother’s room” – which, one has to think, may have later inspired a classic line on “The Simpsons.” (“It smells like Otto’s jacket.”)
But, wait, we’re not done with the subplots. Chick Venerra plays the leather-clad Marv Gomez, who puts on a Spanish accent so thick that you’ll swear he’s going erupt at any moment, “Say ‘hello’ to my leetle frand!” There’s also a pair of underage gals – one of whom is played by Terri Nunn, who’d later go on to front Berlin – trying to win a dance contest, a guy in a Tarzan outfit who swings in on a vine to deliver drinks, a short tough-guy who finds himself on a blind date with an Amazon, a nebbish who gets locked in the stairwell, and…oh, God, that’s not even all of them.
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in just watching the spectacle of it all, both the dancing and the outfits; one of the guys wandering around the disco describes the place as “Disneyland with tits,” and he’s not far wrong. The music is, if not up to the standard set by “Saturday Night Fever,” still quite sufficient to get yer ass shakin’. The Commodores’ performance of “Too Hot Ta Trot” is awesome, particularly given their disco uniforms, and Lionel Richie’s ‘fro is a wonder to behold. Now, mind you, the dialogue isn’t what you’d call spectacular, but at least one leisure-suit-wearing stud reels off a holy trinity of pick-up lines – “Hey, sweetheart, haven’t I seen you here before? You’ve got a beautiful smile. What say we go back to my place and see God…?” It’s nothing less than a crying shame that it doesn’t work for the poor bastard…especially since, in 1978, it was probably a stone-cold success story for everyone else who ever used it.
Anyone who tries to lump “Thank God It’s Friday” in with its god-awful sibling in the disco flick genre, “Can’t Stop the Music” has clearly never seen it; it’s not great, but it’s a far cry from a train wreck. “T.G.I.F.” is a film that generally ranks higher with women than it does with men – indeed, it’s one of my wife’s all-time favorite films – but when watched with an eye to history, it’s undeniably fun.
Oh, come on, Sony, couldn’t you sport for any special features? Not even a trailer…?!? The front cover artwork trumpets the fact that the film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song (for Donna Summer’s “Last Dance”). You’d think they could’ve at least gotten maybe one or two of the Commodores to do a quick documentary about the film’s soundtrack. Disappointing, to be sure.