Consider this: The Sex Pistols and the Ramones are theoretically both ‘punk’ bands, but one of the proposed ending for the Sex Pistol’s movie Who Killed Bambi was going to be bassist Sid Vicious laying in bed shooting up heroin with his mother after they’d just had sex. (That movie was never made for a lot of reasons, including the fact before it could be filmed Vicious died by overdosing on heroin that his mother gave him.) In contrast, Rock N Roll High School has a running joke where the evil principal wants to prove that rock music is bad for kids so she tests it on lab mice. Later, when we go to the Ramones show which makes up about a quarter of the film’s running time the camera finds a six foot tall mouse who has now gotten hooked on the Ramones’ music in the crowd.
This movie made me realize that the Ramones had more in common with Weird Al than they would with a lot of the other bands that were also around at the birth of punk. The goofiness of this movie mirrors UHF (which is basically a kids movie) a lot more than it does a lot of the low budget 70s comedies that I was expecting it to be like. There’s not a lot of the misogyny or racially insensitive jokes that were common for the era; instead there’s a lot of silliness, like casting Clint Howard as the coolest guy in school even though he’s an overeager weirdo who dresses like a golf caddy and who apparently owns multiple blow-up dolls he can loan out to people that need help practicing before dates. (That part is maybe less UHF-y.)
That said, the funniest part of the movie was the way all the characters talked about the Ramones: they are the only band anyone has ever heard of; every student likes them regardless of race, creed or color; all of the students in the school pretend that the awkward mumbling that the Ramones do whenever they have lines is totally normal; and poor Riff, who is one of our female heroines, has to pretend that Joey Ramone is a total dreamboat even though he was famously weird-looking. I feel like the Ramones got cast in this movie because someone called KISS (who was actually as popular in the real world at the time as the Ramones are supposed to be in this movie) only to get told that they were too expensive, so then they defaulted to KISS’s non-union Mexican counterparts.
Still, it was a refreshing bit of fluff, especially given all of the ways I could have seen it taking a turn for the cynical or for the mean-spirited.