Jimmy, The Boy Wonder

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis     
Nancy Jo Berg, Dennis Jones, David Blight Jr.

What better choice to direct a fantasy musical for the whole family than splatter king Herschell Gordon Lewis, director of ground-breaking cult movies like Blood Feast and 2000 Maniacs? That is, if the family you are thinking of has the name of Manson or Addams. Yes, it's true - Lewis didn't just direct ultra gory movies and nudie flicks, but he also found time to direct two family movies, Santa Visits The Magic Land Of Mother Goose and the movie being reviewed here, Jimmy, The Boy Wonder. An odd change of pace for an exploitation director, I think you'd agree, and that's what made me so curious to see how Lewis would direct a kiddie movie.

Now, there's no way I ever thought this movie would be good - that is, genuinely good. Seeing some of Lewis' other movies, I had an idea that here he'd once again be saddled with a very low budget, untalented actors, and a ridiculous script. So I thought that at the least, there would be a lame little movie, but one not without a few chuckles. Maybe You haven't seen such sets since - since, well, kindergarten! even hokey enough to recommend as an unintentional comedy for when you want something a little different. After watching it, I can certainly say it had enough unintended laughs to recommend it just on that level. But the movie is much more than hilariously bad, offering much more. All throughout the movie, you'll be constantly dropping your jaw at what you see. You'll drop your jaw with many incomprehensible, "What the hell?!?" moments, when you see elements that you'd never think you'd see in a kiddie movies, and there are also a few "Oh my God, this is horrible!" sequences - though they do get you chuckling when you think about them later. This movie is simply amazing.

At the beginning of the movie, we see The Great Clock that's located at The End Of The World, a not-so-great looking cardboard clock that looks like it was constructed by elementary students. The narration tells us that every thousand years, the clock opens to admit the rays of the sun. Why? Don't ask me. Anyway, we're told that's when the clock is most vulnerable. At the same time on Earth, little Jimmy is suffering from having to get up, have a shower, get dressed, and have breakfast, all on the first day of school. "I wish time would stop!" he whines during a long and not so convincing rant, while he stares offscreen at his cue card.

Bad move, Jimmy! The clock gets wind of that wish, and BOING, we see people all over the world (well, at least in Florida) stop in their tracks and freeze, except for one little impatient boy in one shot who starts fidgeting his head. Surveying the Lewis shows his perverted side by showing Jimmy playing with himself! frozen world from... um .... somewhere else, I guess... is the Astronomer. Why isn't he frozen as well? Don't ask me. The Astronomer is terrified by time being frozen, because if it isn't started soon, the evil Mr. Fig - a cackling villain with a plaid jacket, red pants, and greasepaint arched eyebrows - will have his dream of time being frozen for a thousand years! Why aren't these two characters frozen as well? Why would Mr. Fig want to rule everything, if everything is frozen? Would it really be bad for us if time was frozen for a thousand years, since we would never notice such a thing? Do I have to tell you there are no answers to these questions as well?

He decides to send his daughter Aurora down to Jimmy. In a normal movie, she would be a beautiful woman, but since this is a low budget movie, the daughter here looks like a somewhat slimmer Kathy Bates. Jimmy then shows how he is a boy wonder by not seeming that surprised when Aurora suddenly materializes in his bedroom. After being told what his wish did, Jimmy passively concludes, "I guess I was being pretty selfish," and agrees to travel with Aurora to her homeland - wherever it is, and whatever it's called -  to replace the Golden Globe (insert your own joke here) in The Great Clock so that time can be replaced. Of course, only a boy wonder could face the various perils ahead - they will not only have to avoid the the evil Mr. Fig, but dangers like the color blue (which, as you know, can make you fall asleep) and the natives from Tick-A-Tock-A-Tammy tribe, who are terrifying with their green skin and pink pants.

The thing I wondered most about Jimmy, The Boy Wonder was why the movie thought that Jimmy deserved to be a boy wonder. As played by youngster Dennis Jones, Jimmy is an annoying little brat, who mushes up his lines when he speaks, and can't even competently act relatively simple actions, like smiling or licking his lips. Jimmy is the kind of kid that manages to annoy you even when they aren't doing anything, Who says ladies don't have the balls to go adventuring? and makes you want to smack him across the mouth. He doesn't do very much in the movie that's heroic or adventurous - heck, he doesn't do that much, period! Most of the movie has him looking on some action, mouth open and eyes agape (doing both actions badly), or else he's holding onto Aurora's hand while she leads the way. In some scenes, Nancy Jo Berg (who plays Aurora) is clearly having to drag the uncooperative youngster by the camera! As for Berg's acting, while she definitely is nowhere as bad as Jones, she puts a condescending tone into her performance. While this approach might be acceptable if the production was a stage play for the kiddies, it comes across as amateurish on the screen.

David Blight Jr. (as Mr. Fig) also acts in a very broad manner, though he makes it work to his advantage. He is trying so hard to act, that he automatically becomes the best actor of the movie. He also goes so much over the top in his performance, you'll also remember him for a long time after you've forgotten everything else about the movie. Words can't adequately describe how insane his performance is. He screams, leaps around, laughs out loud, and does high kicks in the air. The highlight is when he sings - no, screams - the song "Mr. Fig". As he screams "I'M MR. FIG!", his movements become so crazed, they become perverted, with his intense pelvis thrusts and vigorous hand movements near his groin. If you think that's too much, wait until you see the scenes he has with Jimmy. In those scenes, we see him thrusting his face towards Jimmy's and leering, picking up Jimmy and giggling, "I'll give you a hint!", and later chases Jimmy while practically drooling. Probably nobody in the audience gave these scenes a second thought in 1966, but today one can't help but wonder if this subtext was intended by Lewis and company at the time.

I'll now backtrack a little to something more solid, looking now at the rest of the songs in the movie. They are gloriously awful; not just at times being so bad they are hilarious, but Mr. Figg gets a big case of jock itch during his musical number sometimes they are so awful they take your breath away with just how grandly awful they are. The songs are not just awful by themselves, they are awful also in how they are presented. Not just bad lip-synching, but with as few cuts as possible (sometimes just one) as well as lame and unenergetic choreography. To give you a taste of how bad the song number are (especially since you may find it hard to dig up a copy of this movie), I have transcribed the following lyrics for you, from the "best" song in the movie, entitled "Beans":

Beans, beans, wonderful beans!
Nobody know how it means
To have beans in the morning, beans for lunch,
Beans without warning, and beans by the bunch!

I like steak and salad greens,
But nothing can take the place of beans!

I like kidney beans and navy beans,
Lima beans and gravy beans,
Dark green beans and string beans too,
They all fit my point of view!

Beans, beans, marvelous beans!
Vegetable fit for kings and queens!
I don't want diamonds and limousines!
Just give me lotsa, lotsa beans!

Beans, beans, wonderful beans!

Watching Jimmy, The Boy Wonder, it's clear that Lewis knew beans about making a genuinely good kiddie movie. Actually, I think it's more likely that he just didn't care about making this movie any good, feeling it would probably make a buck despite its badness. That's No comment!!!!!! because there's no feeling of love in the entire movie, that Lewis was actually enjoying making this movie. Almost all of the movie was shot in Florida's Coral Gardens, and Lewis makes no effort to disguise the movie limited locations, with barely an outside prop brought in. At one point, the movie makes an excuse so it can take a detour from Jimmy's journey and show us a badly dubbed foreign cartoon feature that's been chopped down to twenty minutes! Lewis also takes up much of the short running time of this movie by devoting much of the movie to Jimmy and Aurora walking across the screen, or during the time they accidentally walk into Slow Motion Land.

What would the movie had been like if Lewis had really tried, low budget and all, to make a good kiddie flick? No, I don't think he would ever in a million years manage to make it genuinely good. The pacing would probably be a lot better, but would it have been funnier to see everyone trying to achieve true greatness with limited resources? Well, we won't ever know for sure. All I do know is that the movie as it is now is pretty funny, though a few of the laughs come later. Your brain will edit down the Slow Motion Land bit down for you later, so that you see the hilarious dumbness of the idea without having all its great length attached to it any longer. Though you will have to sit through those slow bits at first, Jimmy The Boy Wonder has enough insane fun to more than please you before its end. Then just relax, and let the extra smiles come suddenly to you as you do your work.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)
Check Amazon for Herschell Gordon Lewis collection (Blu-Ray)

Huh? Herschell Gordon Lewis writes business books? Yep! Check it out!

See also: Fantasy Mission Force, The Force On Thunder Mountain, Willy McBean And His Magic Machine