Secret Admirer (1985)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Errors, Farce  |   Release Date - Jun 14, 1985 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Nathan Southern

Secret Admirer has gone down in pop culture history as a textbook example of the 80s teen sex comedy. This is and isn't true: yes, it nominally deals with teenagers and sex, but its concerns are ultimately more romantic than carnal. To the filmmakers' credit, the movie avoids the shameless softcore exploitation of lower-grade vehicles from this era such as Private Lessons, Porky's, Tomboy and Screwballs. Unlike the teens in those pictures, the adolescents in this story learn to distinguish sex from love, and the two main characters eventually make mature and intelligent decisions in terms of the romantic relationship that they choose. As such, this is basically a sweet and gentle movie instead of a lewd one. However, that isn't to suggest that Admirer is in any way a good film, merely a few notches above what we've come to expect. It does suffer from several stock weaknesses of its subgenre, including awful dialogue, brain-dead adult characters, and clich├ęd story developments that can be called long before they transpire onscreen, such as the hero "racing" across town to win his dream girl before she leaves his life forever. As for the performances, this ensemble is fairly dispiriting; though several talented character players turn up, including Fred Ward, Dee Wallace Stone, and Leigh-Taylor Young, those thesps can't even begin to transcend the dumb-dumb situations that they are forced into. However, lead actress Lori Loughlin does win us over, as Toni, the nice girl who quietly pines for her "best friend" (C. Thomas Howell); she gives an endearing and affecting turn that is a pleasure to watch. In retrospect, it feels rather surprising that the other female lead in this movie - Kelly Preston - achieved success on the big screen while Loughlin never made it as a movie star. Loughlin not only had a more interesting and offbeat physical look than Preston at the time, but a broader dramatic range in a more difficult and muted role.