06 May 2013

Lunch Wagon

United States - 1981
Director - Ernest Pintoff
Media Home Entertainment, 1982, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 28 minutes
In the metropolitan areas of the United States, the food truck has now become ubiquitous. The taco truck was probably the first contemporary incarnation, but you can find just about anything these days. A few blocks from my apartment in Seattle, in the parking lot of a gas station/convenience store you can get fresh sushi, while a little further down the same street, Haitian Creole is available. Although they’ve been around practically forever, this level of cultural variety is a relatively recent development. I cannot of course speak for anywhere else, but virtually all of these rolling establishments seem to have appeared in the last 10 years, most in the last five. Talk all the nonsensical ignorant trash you want about immigration, but even bigots love a curry.

Presumably intended to be just as exotic as the smorgasbord of international options now available from food trucks, Lunch Wagon unfortunately comes from an era when, as its name implies, the typical vehicular dining establishment offered a much more banal culinary experience, like hot dogs and burgers. It is also, again one can only assume, supposed to be more titillating than the average food truck of today* since its owners are two scantily clad and buxom young women (prominently advertised on the box as former playmates Pamela Bryant and Roseanne Katon.) Unfortunately both the exotic and titillating spins on the food truck premise, which might under other circumstances actually work really well together, are afterthoughts. The truck itself, painted pink and named the “Love Bites,” plays only a peripheral role in the film, serving predominantly as a vehicle (literal and figurative) for a septic stew of lounge-act comedy.
A thrilling surprise cameo by Evel Kneivel pinball!

Move it Proles!
After inheriting their lunch wagon from Dick van Patten, our two leads recruit a sexy cook and begin selling food to construction workers. By parking over a particular manhole cover however, they run afoul of a swanky white-collar criminal type who is using said manhole to gain access to a bank. With the help of freshly landed (color coordinated) boyfriends, the female trio manage to foil not only that dastardly plan but another, less dastardly but no less annoying plan by another set of cloying “comedians.”Snagged on the undercarriage of this heretofore thrilling ordeal and dragged along like week-old road kill is yet another tangentical story, this one a talent show which goes on for days and days and is notable only for an early appearance of Missing Persons whom repeatedly perform their song Mental Hopscotch.

It’s an apt metaphor for a film that jumps all over the place yet somehow still lands on a conclusion. Using a food truck as the crux of your film is clearly not a lucrative source of material. As Wheels on Meals, the only other film with a foundational food-truck demonstrates, some other element is critical (in that case incomparable kung fu.) Instead, Lunch Wagon takes its cue Loose Shoes style, from the trashy and titillating exploitation trailers that are entertaining when compressed into 3 minutes, but stretched to feature-length become a chore.

Yes, it's that good.

*Here in Washington State there are a number of drive-up coffee joints that “offer” young women in lingerie or bikinis making the coffee. I suspect these exist elsewhere in the country as well. However, the interior of food trucks in my experience are not typically attractive, sexually or otherwise. 

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