After I finished watching Girls Just Want To Have Fun, it was time for the 1986 film, Secret Admirer!
Secret Admirer is a fairly good example of a film that is dependent upon the idiot plot. Every plot complication could have been avoided by the characters not being idiots. The entire storyline could have been resolved within five minutes if some of the characters had been willing to ask questions before jumping to assumptions. Idiot plots tend to fun when they deal with teenagers, largely because, when you’re that age, you can get away with being an idiot. That’s part of the charm of being a teenager and why nobody ever wants to grow up. When you’re a teenager, you’re not expected to have any common sense or knowledge of the real world so you can get away with a lot more. At the same time, idiot plots involving adults tend to be annoying because adults really should know better. The idiot plot of Secret Admirer involves both teenagers and adults and, as a result, the film is half-charming and half-annoying.
Smart but shy Toni (Lori Loughlin) has a crush on her lifelong friend, the sweet but kinda stupid Michael (C. Thomas Howell). So, Toni writes Michael an incredibly eloquent love note and slips it into his locker. When Michael finds the note, he assumes that it was written by Debbie (Kelly Preston), who is pretty and popular but only dates college students. When Michael attempts to write a response to Debbie, he is sabotaged by his limited vocabulary, lack of eloquence, and general dimness. Luckily, Toni finds the note and, wanting to spare Michael any embarrassment, rewrites it for him. Debbie is so touched by Toni’s note that she goes out on a date with Michael. Toni is forced to stand in the background and watch while the boy she loves falls for a girl who is obsessed with shopping. (Secret Admirer suggests that this obsession indicates that Debbie is shallow but seriously, who doesn’t love to shop?) Will Toni tells Michael that she loves him or will she leave him so that she can spend a year studying abroad? (Personally, I would leave and have fun exploring Europe but then again, I also love to shop so obviously, Toni and I have conflicting worldviews.)
But that’s not all! Michael’s dad, George (Cliff DeYoung), also finds the note and assumes that it was written to him by Debbie’s mom, Elizabeth (Leigh Taylor-Young). Of course, Debbie’s father, a police detective named Lou (the always gruff Fred Ward), also comes across the note and becomes convinced that George and Elizabeth are having an affair. He somewhat forcibly recruits George’s wife, Connie (Dee Wallace Stone), to help him expose George and Elizabeth for being the cheaters that he believes them to be….
I got annoyed with the parents fairly quickly. It’s always fun to watch Fred Ward grimace and glare at people but otherwise, all of the adults were way too stupid and their behavior reminded me of that terrible episode of Saved By The Bell where the exact same thing happens to Mr. Belding. Secret Admirer works best when the adults are pushed to the background and the film concentrates on the relationship between Toni and Michael. They’re a sweet couple and you really want to see them end up together. Michael may be stupid but he’s still really cute and the film is perfectly charming whenever it concentrates on him and Toni.
Incidentally, Michael has several friends. They all ride around in a van and look through old issues of Playboy together. Most of the friends are interchangeable but I did like Ricardo (Geoffrey Blake), just because he was wearing a suit and a fedora for no particular reason. Ricardo didn’t really get to do much but his fashion sense made a definite impression.
By the admittedly high standards of 80s teen films, Secret Admirer is a minor film. It’ll never be mistaken for Sixteen Candles or Pretty In Pink. That said, it’s still an entertaining and occasionally sweet film. You’ll want to skip over the scenes involving the adults but the scenes involving C. Thomas Howell and Lori Loughlin are perfectly charming.