Movie Review: Pump up the Volume

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pump up the Volume, a film from 1990, stars Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis. It tells the story of a teenage boy living a double life. On one hand he is a model high school student attending high school in the suburban desert of Arizona. By night, he is a raunchy radio disc jockey, known as Happy Harry Hard-on, talking hard and stealing the air - as in radio air.

Each and every night he goes live to all those that can hear him, and many can and do hear him. His message about a society gone wrong and a corrupt high school reaching many and angering even many more. Soon his broadcasts receive national attention, even drawing notice from the FCC. This following a few unfortunate incidents that occur among his teenage listeners - in which Harry gets the blame for. Even with the FCC breathing down his neck, Harry continues on to make sure his message is delivered.

This movie may have been released in 1990, but its message still rings true in today's society. Harry is honest with his views of society, and in times like these with so much happening in the world around us, this is commendable. He speaks on the confusion and worry many teenagers in the world feel, but in my opinion this confusion and worry isn't just felt by those attending high school, but by many adults as well. There is so much turmoil in our time, and many are unsure of what will happen next.

Harry shows us how one voice can move many. When his popularity grows, it surprises him, and he cannot handle it. He is just one teenage boy named Mark. A boy that is shy, speaking to no one at school, and spending most of his days in solitude. His alter ego allows him the ability to say the things he wouldn't normally say.

Samantha Mathis plays Nora. She is the girl that searches him out, getting to know both the shy teenager and the raunchy Harry, once she finds out who he is. By the end of the film, she is assisting him in getting his message out. This movie introduced us to this actress that went on to star in many more movies including The Thing Called Love and American Psycho.

For ninety-five minutes, this movie is in your face. We're taken from Harry's broadcasts in his basement to the rooms of his listeners as they sit and listen every night. This movie tells their stories as well, and we have a cross-section of a few popular teen stereotypes represented. The popular Miss perfect school girl that isn't so perfect, and the shy geeky teenage boy that feels his only solution is to end his life - to name a few.

Pump up the Volume has always been one of my favorite movies. I was in my teens when it first came out, and its message even struck a cord with me then. It still strikes a cord with me now. After buying the DVD and sitting down to watch this movie tonight, I remembered why I loved this movie.

It's honest and out there. The acting is right on. Christian Slater nails the role of teenager with a double life perfectly. His co-star, Samantha Mathis, showed us what she was capable of as an actress, and this was the start of her film career. If you have never seen this movie or its been awhile, I highly recommend it. Just a bit of a warning, this movie is not for the children. The language is quite coarse.

To check this film out for yourself check the following retailers: J & R, Amazon or rent through


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