As you may have guessed by now, I'm a big fan of old, cheesy
educational films. Something about how serious their message is supposed
to be combined with the extremely dated style just makes them a great
source of amusement. Unintentional comedy is always the best kind if you
ask me. Recently, I was lucky enough to stumble onto a collection of school bus
safety films, and today I'd like to cover one of my favorites from the
lot: Ol' #23.
Bus number 23, or as they
call it "Ol' #23," has seen better days. While the bus itself is in
perfect working condition, the generations of rowdy rugrats have torn away
at her innards. Some seats are clinging on for dear life, fabric dangling
loosely with the inner frameworks exposed while other seats have puncture
wounds from pencils (or were they bullet holes?). As a result of all this
wear 'n tear, the school board is thinking about retiring Ol' #23 and
buying a new bus to replace her. Oh no! Not Ol' #23!
Enter our hero, our savior,
our champion, Mr. Dougan. He's decided that Ol' #23 isn't ready for the
scrapyard, and by god, he will do anything in his power to save it. He
comes up with the ambitious proposal to personally fix up the interior of
the school bus along with the help of the kids who ride it. He and Jack,
another guy with copious amounts of facial hair, discuss the plan and
believe it could work. But first, Mr. Dougan has to talk to the kids and
see if they're up to the task.
The next day, the kids leave
school and notice that Ol' #23 is missing and bus #41 is in its place. No,
scratch that, they don't just notice it... they're actually
upset about it! They all whine about the bus not being the same one,
like it matters, and Mr. Dougan tells them to hop aboard and he'll explain
the grave situation.
Dougan tells the kids the
bad news about how the man pulled Ol' #23 out of service because it
wouldn't pass inspection. The kids are all upset going, "awwwwwww man!"
and "whaaaaaat? why!?!?" as if they were just told to eat their
vegetables if they wanted dessert. And just when those kids are ready to
arm themselves with weapons and kill everyone in sight until Ol' #23 is
put back on the streets, Mr. Dougan comes up with a better plan.
"How would you kids
like to save Ol' #23 for another couple of years? If we're willing to
redecorate the inside ourselves, at our costs, the school district might
let us put it back on the road." He goes on to tell them the kids
can decorate the inside of the bus however they like, just as long as they
don't use lead-based paint or flammable fabrics. The kids get all excited
about fixing up the bus and agree to do it. Keep in mind they agree to do
it over a weekend, not during a regular school day. I only mention this to
show how unrealistic this whole situation really is.
Still, they start talking
about ideas and how they want to decorate the bus, and one of them in
particular is without a doubt the greatest posterchild for 70's stoner
"Hey I saw this movie
once about a bus that was painted all over in psychedelic colors!
Rainbows... spirals... stars... can we maybe paint the outside of the bus
too?" God how I love that kid. I don't know who he is, but he
should've become a star. Regardless of how amusing the kid is, I doubt
there is a movie where the entire story was about a bus with psychedelic
colors. This kid probably hallucinated the whole thing. Actually, wait,
the 60's 'n 70's had plenty of crazy shit like that, so there probably IS
a movie about that bus. Doesn't take much to amuse a someone who's high,
so I'm sure the psychedelic bus movie would easily get the job done.
Well anyway, the dreams of
stoner boy are shot down when good ol' Mr. Dougan informs him that the law
requires all school buses to be bright yellow. Don't fret stoner boy, at
least you can still consider the inside of the bus your canvas.
The next morning, Mr. Dougan
meets with the school superintendent, Dr. Barbara Mason. You'd think
doctors have better things to do than dealing with school bus issues, but
so be it. Her patient is Ol' #23 and it needs medicine. After hearing the
pitch from Mr. Dougan about fixing up the bus, she concludes that "This
project has merit, it could be fun and it may even stop this school bus
vandalism." It could also save the school district almost $2000,
which back then was something like $2,000,000,000.00 if my math is
correct. And my math is ALWAYS correct, motherfuckers. Y=MX+B!!!
So with the project
approved, the kids decide to forget about their Saturday morning cartoons
(and freedom) and instead, get to work on fixing up Ol' #23! There's one
nerdy kid who's decided that this is his big chance to show all the other
cool kids what he's made of. He hands a sheet from the ceiling of the bus
to create his own private area so he can begin painting in peace. He even
brought a radio with a classic music tape to help him concentrate. He's
that serious about this project. What kind of art does he have in store
for Ol' #23? Who knows, but I'm sure it's going to surprise us all because
nerdy kids are always surprising. Always.
The kids continue to paint
and reupholster Ol' #23 for a while and to keep things light, there's a
running gag in the film. None of the kids want to listen to nerdboy's
classical music, so they keep changing his radio to play rock music.
Damnit, why must they mess with the concentration of a genius? Do they
want his masterpiece to come out badly? Do they want Ol' #23 to be the
laughing stock of the art world as we know it? Ok, maybe they just don't
want to hear Chopin's "Minute" for the 20th time that day.
Mr. Dougan couldn't be
happier with the way the bus is shaping up. Flowers, rainbows, and big red
lips? I dunno what that one boy was thinking, and when one kid tells him
that his lips painting is gross, he respond in an snobby artist voice: "Well
I think it's a maaaasterpiece!" Sorry kid, your lips just can't
compete with what nerd boy has been working on in his secret layer towards
the rear of the bus...
This is what nerdboy has
been preparing for his entire life. This is his moment in the spotlight.
This is his turn to shine, and not you or your gaudy red lips can do a
damned thing about it! Ah ha! At last, it is complete! Let the grand
Egads, that kid just painted
the Mona friggin' Lisa on the ceiling of Ol' #23! Now there's no way the
school district can send the bus to the scrapyard! That'd be like
destroying a priceless piece of art! As soon as he unveils it, Mr. Dougan
and all of the other kids can't help but stare in awe. They then give
nerdboy a huge round of applause and it is clear that today, he has
emerged as a new man.
A NEW MAN!
The next day, stoner boy is
talking with one of his school pals near the lockers. He goes on and on
about all the great fun they had fixing up Ol' #23 over the weekend. "Hey
man! We got a customized school bus! You won't believe it when you see it.
Ol' #23 is unreal! Julie painted a huge daisy right in the middle of one
of the walls and Tanya covered her bus seat in wild blue vinyl! And we
have the Mona Lisa!" His baseball playing buddy hopes that his
team gets to take the bus when they go play an away game this week. Well,
it appears as though his hopes are coming true...
The team is amazed by the
art on the bus, but they're still wondering if this "rolling funhouse"
is in good enough shape to get them to the game. Their coach reassures
them that the bus is perfectly good and that they should be focused on the
game. Hey coach, you're the one taking them on the psychedelic bus ride,
so don't be surprised if their minds are on anything but the game.
Somehow, the team pulls it
together and they manage to play one of the best games of their lives. Now
it's time to celebrate. Now brace yourselves... what you're about to see
just might make you want to cry. I'm all for celebration, but certainly
not at the expense of Ol' #23.
The team laughs as they
start causing damage to Ol' #23. One kid scrapes the dirt off of his
cleats right onto the newly upholstered seats. Another kid lets his cleats
dig right into one of the seats, ripping up the fabric while someone else
throws his shoes across the bus and they hit the ceiling, getting dirt on
the nice artwork. And the reckless havoc doesn't stop there. Oh no my
friends, it has only just begun...
One kid asks his friend to
hand him a soda, so his friend hands it to him open and upside-down. The
soda gets all over the seat while all the kids laugh their asses off. Then
that same kid decides to get revenge by shaking up the bottle really hard.
Can you see where this is going? I know, it's horrible, it's almost too
much to bear. The following scene is an utter tragedy and cannot be taken
A masterpiece ruined by soda
pop. SODA POP! Even the filmmakers knew that they had just recorded
footage of one of the greatest tragedies this world has ever experience,
so they took it upon themselves to show the moment at various angles and
zooms complete with horrific echoing sound effects and slow motion. Screw
horror movies, this is easily one of the most chilling things I've ever
She may be smiling on the
outside, but one look into those eyes and you know that the Mona Lisa is
crying on the inside. And Mona... today we're all crying with you.
The next day, Mr. Dougan
goes to talk to the coach about just what in the hell his team did to Ol'
#23. Considering the damage that was done to the bus, Mr. Dougan is
amazingly calm about the situation. You can tell he's pissed off though,
and somewhere beneath all that facial hair, lies a rage that is just dying
to tear the coach limb from limb. The coach clearly recognizes this and
comes up with a plan to make up for what his team did.
Later that day, stoner boy
tells his baseball playing pal just how pissed off he is about what the
team did to Ol' #23. "Do you know how many of us worked on that bus?
Do you know how long it took?" You tell him stoner boy! Well it
turns out the coach has already bitched out the team for their reckless
behavior, and now the team has decided to help the other kids fix up the
bus for a second time. They shake hands, agree to work on the bus
next Saturday and the film ends.
So let me get this
straight... the baseball team destroys the work that the other kids put
into the bus, so now they have to HELP the kids repair it? What kind of
horse shit is that? The kids have to give up another Saturday to work on
Ol' #23 again? How about they make JUST the baseball team fix it. And
don't let them leave the bus until the Mona Lisa looks EXACTLY the way it
did before! The only thing this educational film teaches us is that if we
get screwed over by someone else's carelessness, we have to bend over and
take it. Well I think that's a load of crap. Personally I can only think
of one way to deal with such carelessness...
questions or comments about this piece?