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With the Olympic year bearing down on us, the usual Super Bowl frenzy, March Madness and over-blown Hot Stove Baseball talk there may never be a better time for a review of TWIRL than right this second…TWIRL, where young ladies compete in a big ol' Texas-style Twirl-off for cash and prizes and of course a real College Scholarship. That's right, America's favorite pastime Baton Twirling and the lives it make and the lives it takes. Feel the burn.

Surprisingly this genre hasn't taken off, say like the Kevin Costner-backed Baseball film genre, we haven't caught any Looney Tunes characters battling aliens in a Twirl-off to save the world and there is no behind the scenes tell-all like NORTH DALLAS FORTY, which indicted pro football in the 70s. But TWIRL, you might say has elements of all the aforementioned. I'll explain.

Costner's baseball tomes deal with the maudlin national pastime in a personal, single individual struggle with the game and with the emotional baggage that comes with trying to be a success in the game. TWIRL gives us the friendship of Bonnie Lee (Happy Day's Joanie, Erin Moran) and Jill (Fats, er, Facts of Life's Blair, Lisa Whelchel), two young ladies who have been twirling together for years, and that is not a reference to Moran's supposed sexuality, the two are best friends, doing high school stuff and anticipating the "Miss Twirl" competition which is just around the corner. No big deal, right, wrong, because Bonnie Lee's father (TV stalwart and Hill Street Blues' Renko, Charles Haid) is the organizer of this tall Texas twirlin' tournament and he sure would like to see Bonnie Lee take home the title. But his drive doesn't match Jill's mom's hopes for her little dumpling. Carol Moore (the shapely, sultry Connie Stevens) is the town's single mom (harlot) who wants something better for her pudgy twirlnik and she is willing to lay on her back and hold her ankles to see it happen. Do I have to point out the similarities to FIELD OF DREAMS? Doesn't Costner cornhole Thulsa Doom while Shoeless Joe plants corn or something?

Aliens? You ask. Well, girls are coming from all over the US of A (and parts of Canada, not doubt) to vie for the honor of twirling a rubber tipped stick in front of a panel of "judges." Well you got a cosmetics executive, a college gymnastics representative and of course, Edd "Kooky" Byrnes as a washed up and bitter Bobby Bennett, former radio or TV guy or something. Judges, very capable judges. Anyway, these Aliens from another high school are invading the turf of Bobbie Lee and Lisa. This Aliens include the very talented and token black contestant, Vanessa, Kim King our Asian representative, Cherie (played by a young and spunky Heather Locklear) and Cindy (Tracy Scroggins) who wears her shorts too tight and chews a lot of gum. So our heroines have to not only fight for their friendship but they have to battle forces from all over the universe, er, well Gus Trikonis' universe. Who? Gus frickin' Trikonis, you know, director of such wonderworks as The SIDEHACKERSs, SUPERCOCK and MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS. In 1981, TWIRL was just one of Trikonis' made-for-TV efforts, with MISS ALL-AMERICAN BEAUTY, ELVIS AND THE BEAUTY QUEEN hitting the little screen, as well as the theatrical release of TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT. Trikonis was the shit-flavored director of choice for quickie, straightforward productions that featured everything from Dwarves to the King. Trikonis worked on no less than 23 different projects from 1980 to 1990…busy, to say they least. So although no extraterrestrials show up for the Miss Twirl competition, our gals have to ward off evil batonists from "parts unknown" to take the belt. There's no Foghorn, but I admit my Leghorn got stiff seeing Whelchel's heaving womanhoods.

But what makes Twirl entertaining is the part of the film most like NORTH DALLAS FORTY, the "behind the scenes." I already mentioned the parents of the star twirlers. Bonnie Lee's dad is like a man possessed with the twirling, played like a former jock living vicariously through his student athlete son, he makes Bonnie Lee practice in the dark on the patio constantly, he forbids her to cavort with Lisa, her best pal and makes Bonnie Lee's life fucking miserable with all the aplomb of a gay drill sergeant with a bad case of hemorrhoids, he ain't pleasant. On the other end of the spectrum Lisa's Mom wants something better for Lisa, she wants her to get that chance at a scholarship a Baton Community U. or wherever. She likes to take a snort or two, ramble on about her teenage years and ain't above trading tail for a nod from the judges for her daughter. It is also apparent that Bonnie Lee's Pops has tasted the fruits of the town's sexy divorcee and I thought we might head down a road that made the gals sisters but it didn't happen that way. Nonetheless, the typical TV melodrama ensues, tears flow, people get their feelings hurt but it all comes down to the actual event. Trikonis effectively draws sympathy for some characters and gets us to dislike others almost like a real director. The film never goes for a full on disembowelment of the sport of baton twirling but like NORTH DALLAS, make no mistake, it's brutal, folks get hurt, fingers are blistered and callused and some of those damned things even have fire on the ends. Ouch. Surprisingly very few ever make it to the pros. Sad.

Staged like a scene from Rocky, girl after girl is paraded up to a stage where they twirl, while twirling around, dancing, jumping, smiling ad naseum until someone is crowned Miss God-damed Twirl. Edd Byrne's character spits vile, rolls his eyes and doesn't want to be there. The dad prays for other girls to drop their batons and it all trudges towards the finale' of the Miss Twirl competition, only one will win. You'll have to watch it yourself to find out, I only wish there had been some sort of lesbianism, murder or incest to add to this review but much to my and probably more so, your dismay, it didn't happen that way. But you do get a fair amount of those terry cloth shorts that allow for easy access to gaze upon, so all is not lost on the exploitation aspects of the film. It really is too bad Lisa Whelchel never got desperate enough for porn. Sigh.

If you need TWIRL, let me know, I'll see what I can do. Mail Prof. Tread

"Mom, Dad, I'm a lesbian."

The movie's called TWIRL!

Sorry, but this is just funny. A helmet to protect your head from a baton...Rodney King sure wished he'd had one.

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Lisa Whelchel chats with Erin Moran....

Miss Twirl USA Pageant....21st Annual, even.

Twirling, the redneck ladies golf.

Okay now there's a shot of her ass hanging out...

Bobbie Lee's domineering daddy!

That's Edd Byrnes, yep, that Edd!

Rock star cock hound Heather Locklear! She can Twirl a stick!

If I had tits like that I'd wear a helmet too.

This is one of the commericals on during this made for TV wonder..

God that is strong! Twirling rules!

Brains On Film 2003