Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez), an alienated young rocker living in mid-1980s Los Angeles, is fired from his menial job as a supermarket stock clerk and learns that his pot-smoking, ex-hippie parents have donated his entire savings to a popular television evangelist. Now broke, Otto gets a job almost by accident with the disingenuously named "Helping Hand Corporation," a small-time automobile reposession agency, where he works with a seasoned repo man and mentor Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) who teaches him the often hazardous art of repossessing automobiles.
Soon, Bud, Otto and competing repo men all over town are searching for a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu sedan from New Mexico oddly valued at $20,000, which, unknown to them, contains something mysterious and dangerously powerful in its trunk. The film draws on Cox's own experiences as a repo man in Los Angeles when he was younger, but soon deviates into the surreal with aliens, the CIA, televangelism, punk rocker thieves and other strange characters and situations, all amid a string of hilarious, almost-impossible coincidences.
Moments to watch
- The picture of "four alien bodies" is allegedly two condoms filled with water and decorated with a pair of tiny grass skirts.
- Miller (Tracey Walter ), a scruffy, oddball mechanic working for Helping Hand, refuses to learn to drive, uttering one of the movie's most memorable lines, "The more you drive, the less intelligent you are."
Recurring themes and references
- References to "plate of shrimp" throughout.
- "Dioretix" a pun on Dianetics and diuretic
- Food and beverages throughout the movie appear in generic white containers with blue-lettered labels reading "food", "beer", etc. (This was actually due to the need to save money on the film.)
- Pine-scented car deodorizers shaped like evergreen trees are placed in most cars. These items were one of the few sponsored items in this movie and hundreds of these deodorizers were donated to the filmmakers for this movie, without scent. Miller, the mechanic-philosopher, also noted the pervasive presence of the scented pine tree deodorizers in repossessed cars, telling Otto, "You'll find one in every car, you'll see." (One even appears on a policeman's motorcycle.)
- Many of the "repo men" of the Helping Hand Corporation are named after popular beers or allude to beer: Bud, Oly, Lite, Miller.
- Quite a few Los Angeles-based punk rock musicians cast in roles large and small include: Dick Rude and Keith Morris (with his band, The Circle Jerks). Also cast is Los Angeles club maven, Rodney Bingenheimer (aka "Rodney on the ROQ") in a cameo role as a club owner.
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