(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)
The goofball subgenre of comedy, where the protagonist is the dumbest person alive and somehow becomes the center of a plot much bigger than them, was all the rage in the late ’80s and early ’90s. From The Naked Gun movies to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Dumb and Dumber, these movies gave us dumb yet lovable buffoons who got into a ton of trouble, but still have a certain charm that keeps them from being so dumb that they’re unlikeable.
In a different world, Disney could have had its own franchise of lovable idiots in the late ’90s. Instead, the studio did too little too late, chasing after a trend long after audiences had already expressed their desire to move on from the subgenre. We’re talking, of course, about Meet the Deedles, a movie that came four years after Dumb and Dumber but feels like it was made 20 years later by someone who only had a passing knowledge of what the movie is like. But hey! At least the cast includes Paul Walker and Dennis Hopper.
Not to be confused with Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles, Meet the Deedles is all about the misadventures of twin brothers and lovable idiots Phil and Stew Deedle (Walker and Steve Van Wormer, respectively). The two surfer dudes would much rather continue to be awakened by hot girls in bikinis every morning and go parasailing while being chased by a police officer on a jet ski than go to school. It probably helps that their dad is a millionaire, and they live life absolutely carefree. But things go south when the brothers dropkick a cop in the face and get understandably expelled from school, which results in their father sending them off to Wyoming so they can grow up, or he’ll stop financing their shenanigans.
Simple enough, right? Think again. Instead of a simple story about two buffoons going to a place called Camp Broken Spirit and learning to be responsible, they get accidentally mistaken for two wildlife experts and get hired by Yellowstone National Park to serve as ranger trainees and fix the park’s prairie dog infestation ahead of a big birthday for the Old Faithful geyser. Oh, and there is a strange conspiracy afoot to ruin Yellowstone’s reputation, move the geyser to a new location, and open another park.
This is far from the first time Disney tried to capitalize on movie trends only to fail spectacularly. I wrote about Disney’s attempt at their own Star Wars — The Black Hole — in this very column. And who can forget that time (much more recently) that Disney made their own Madagascar with The Wild? Meet the Deedles is no different, but it is still an entertaining experiment in trying to imagine the pitch meeting that gave life to this movie.
Meet the Deedles is the directorial debut of Steve Boyum, a stunt actor in films like Predator and Lethal Weapon. If you squint hard enough, you can almost draw a line between Boyum directing Deedles and his next film Johnny Tsunami, and other stunt actors becoming directors, like Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (John Wick). The biggest strength of Meet the Deedles lies in its stunts. Even at a modest budget, the movie has some impressive helicopter shots and stunts in the gorgeous backgrounds of Yellowstone National Park. Boyum really emphasizes the brothers’ surfing skills. They might be idiots, but they actually know their stuff, and the film finds every opportunity imaginable to have the Deedles surfing, with good results.
Even if Walker and Van Wormer are definitely no Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter and they can’t quite capture the magic Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels had together, they still manage to sell the absurdity of the plot and garner sympathy from the audience. This being one of Paul Walker’s first major roles in a feature film (after the notorious Tammy and the T-Rex, of course) it’s easy to see why he would continue on this path of playing the pretty boy surfer dude for years. Phil is the dumber of the two Deedles, but he’s the more charming one, as he spends most of the film tied in a romantic subplot with a female ranger he declares his love for after 20 seconds of knowing her. Even in spite of some bad dialogue that makes Anakin Skywalker’s speech about sand look super romantic, Walker manages to balance his surfer dude persona with the kind of endearment that would allow the Fast & Furious franchise to become what it has.
Then there’s the villain of the film, an evil former ranger named Slater (Dennis Hopper). Turns out, Slater’s whole plan is not entirely unlike that of Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, as he wants to redirect the boiling waters of Old Faithful to a new geyser and sell tickets. Slater is the cause of the prairie dog problem plaguing the park, and Steve Boyum films the rodents as if they were a swarm of rats in a horror film, creeping over their victims and attacking ferociously. Oh, and speaking of horror, Freddy Kreuger actor Robert Englund pops up here too, playing a sidekick hunter.
Though far from a success, Meet the Deedles helped kickstart several careers.
Just a year after the release of the film, Steve Boyum directed what would become one of the best Disney Channel Original Movies: Johnny Tsunami. Boyum still works as a director, having recently directed a bunch of episodes for the Lethal Weapon TV show. Paul Walker was just months away from a role in Pleasantville which would cement his heartthrob reputation, and he would work with Disney again in 2006 for the survival drama Eight Below. Jim Herzfeld, who wrote the script, would move on to co-write the first two Meet the Parents films.
Meet the Deedles was not released on DVD in North America and has been out of print for years, but now it is finally available in all its ridiculous glory on Disney+.
The post Revisiting ‘Meet the Deedles,’ Disney’s Goofball ‘Bill and Ted’ Riff Starring a Young Paul Walker appeared first on /Film.