Written by Hombre Divertido
In 1987 Patrick Dempsey plays a curly brown-haired, nerdy outcast, high school student by the name of Ronald who pays the head cheerleader to date him, in hopes of becoming popular, in the classic ‘80s teen comedy Can’t Buy Me Love.
Thirteen years earlier, an eerily similar looking Scott Jacoby plays Bad Ronald, a curly brown-haired, nerdy outcast, high school student, who accidentally kills a young girl who is mocking him. At the insistence of his mother, Ronald takes refuge in a secret room in the house to avoid authorities, in this made-for-television classic. After his mother leaves home for an operation and dies, Ronald continues to live in his secret room as the house is sold and a new family, with three young daughters, moves in.
Generally considered intense for a television movie in 1974, Bad Ronald is still fun, but quite tame by today’s standards. The main problems with the movie are that it is hard to tell this story in only 71 minutes, thus there is little character development, and the story comes to a conclusion too quickly and conveniently.
More importantly, Bad Ronald is really not that bad. He accidentally kills a young girl, at the beginning of the film, and then follows that up with bad decisions by both he and his mother. The seclusion eventually impacts him negatively, but he is primarily just a Peeping Tom until the nosy neighbor slips and falls after seeing Ronald, so he drags her under the house. As things get more desperate, he attacks a boyfriend of the one of the girls, but does not kill him. The film contains little or no blood or graphic violence.
The performances and overall tone are campy, and Jacoby fails to create any intensity with his portrayal of Ronald. Kim Hunter is creepy as the mother who is somewhat off and it’s fun to see a young Dabney Coleman as the father of the family that moves into Ronald’s house, but his performance is one-dimensional. The movie still looks good after all these years, though certain scenes are reminiscent of an ABC After School Special.
Bad Ronald is part of Warner Brothers Archive Collection and is available at their website. The release contains no bonus material.
Recommendation: If you enjoyed this film in the seventies, it is fun to revisit, but may not be as scary as you remember. If you are not familiar with Bad Ronald, and are looking for some fun family fare for a rainy Saturday night, grab some popcorn, and enjoy some made-for-television camp.