Never Too Young to Die (1986) — James Bond Jr. vs. Mad Max

“Is the concentration lethal?” “I’d say WORSE!”

Justin’s rating: Keep on saying “RAM-K” like it means something, movie

Justin’s review: If the name Never Too Young to Die wasn’t a big enough tip-off, this film tried to be an unofficial James Bond spin-off for the MTV generation. Tried and failed, I might add, but it was a glorious failure that deserves closer examination.

The super-evil intersex Velvet von Ragnar (KISS’ Gene Simmons in a deliriously odd performance) is planning on poisoning a city’s water supply for ransom. Hey, it’s the only way you can get jewels in this economy! To help in this task, Ragnar has a lifetime supply of feather boas, the full set of “How to Overact” VHS tapes, and an inexplicable post-apocalyptic warrior gang waiting to carry out orders to the letter.

I mean, try to wrap your head around a spy movie set in the ’80s but also has these guys romping around:

Standing in Ragnar’s way is James Bond himself, George Lazenby. Technically, Lazenby plays Drew Stargrove, a secret agent… who actually bites the big one early on. By movie law, the responsibilities of stopping the villain are then bequeathed to his son Lance (John Stamos), a high school gymnast who finds his skills easily translate into spy work. Hey, it was a statement the ’80s was trying to make.

It’s a good thing that James Bond Jr. here is roommates with his own Q Jr., an inventor who doesn’t mind making explosive laser-flamethrowers and other gadgets on his spare time. Oh, and his student advisor is Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), who is also a secret mad scientist, because this movie is all-in on weirdness. I mean, it begins with a song extoling the virtue of the lead character’s name (“Staaaaargrove!”), so it’s obviously sacrificing Oscar prospects for crowd-pleasing tactics.

Lance and Lance’s feathery mullet are drawn into the world of anything-goes espionage by his dad’s former partner Danja (Vanity). Danja doesn’t seem to hold a lot of reservations against dragging a kid into danger and seducing him despite the age difference, but really, how else are heroes made? Soon enough, he’s planting bugs, using gadgets, thwarting death traps, and fighting axe-wielding motorcycle gangs like any respectable franchisee should do.

I also want to give a shout-out to the quirky soundtrack that utilized every setting on the composer’s Casio keyboard to great effect. I honestly dug it.

While it’s objectively terrible, Never Too Young to Die is subjectively awesome. It’s how the movie knows it’s being ridiculous and relishes in it with a saucy wink to the audience. Simmons has a blast with his unusual villain, being both extremely flamboyant and pretty smart. And Stamos was always a likable enough guy. I think that a James Bond Jr. franchise with him at the helm could’ve worked. But instead he was sentenced to a decade in a very full house, and we have only the thought of what could’ve been.

Didja notice?

  • The finger! The finger!
  • The “Stargrove” song. Hey, everyone needs their own personal theme song!
  • Trampoline jumping is serious gymnast work
  • Ah, the old “what is this” nose flick gotcha
  • WATCH COMPUTER CHEATING ALERT
  • Combination explosive laser, sling, and flamethrower
  • That is the most ’80s dorm room ever
  • Don’t try to grab a lit blowtorch out of a guy’s hand
  • Umbrellas make for good shields
  • Swiveling walls in a horse stall that hold tons of weapons
  • “Or we’ll tenderize your butt!”
  • The conveniently stacked grenades in a horse stall
  • That is the most heavy metal bar I’ve ever seen. You can even drive your motorcycle right into it.
  • Exploding motorcycle!
  • Ahh ’80s car phones
  • Driving under semis is a smart way to evade bad guys
  • So the gang captures him and then thoughtfully brings him home? Just to terrorize him some more?
  • “Stargrove. Lance Stargrove!”
  • Mutant goldfish
  • I love that Cliff gets to join in on the gunfight
  • This seduction scene is so wonderfully laughable, right down to the cheesy song and garden hose shower
  • And now we’re dressing up in camo gear for some reason and being replaced with stunt doubles
  • Gene Simmons loves to roll his eyes back to give us white eyes
  • Ragnar really likes calling his followers “turds”

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