I first saw My Bodyguard when I was fifteen, soon after reading Roger Ebert’s raving review of it in his movie guide. I remember identifying with Clifford, the story’s protagonist, because, like him, I was an affable, intelligent, easygoing kid who looked like he could be a target for bullies (and was, on occasion).
Looking at it as an adult, my affection for it has grown, partly due to its pro-singlehood message. The plot: Clifford (Chris Makepeace) has started a new school, and as the new kid, he’s singled out by Moody (one of Matt Dillon’s first roles) and his gaggle of followers. He attempts to extort money from him by providing “protection” from Linderman (Adam Baldwin, an underrated Baldwin brother), rumored to be the school’s resident psycho. Clifford sees through Moody’s ruse, and isn’t having it. As a result, his locker is trashed, and he’s tripped in the gym and in the cafeteria.
Clifford’s perceptive enough to notice even the bullies are scared of Linderman, so he offers to hire him as his bodyguard. After “taking care of” Moody and his gang, Linderman and Clifford become friends.
Their friendship is the focal point of the movie, and there’s no romantic subplot where Clifford “gets the girl.” There is no “girl.” Actually, correction: the “girl” is played by a young Joan Cusack, and she becomes one of Clifford’s new group of friends after being rejected by Moody in a most douchey way. The movie celebrates male friendship between two boys that don’t seem to have anything in common.
I wish the movie would have explored the boys’ friendship dynamic more. There’s a silly subplot involving Clifford’s loving but distracted father (Martin Mull), the “on call at all times” hotel manager who’s in charge of the Ambassador East Hotel, where Clifford has the luxury of living. There’s a backstabbing assistant manager who wants Mull’s job. The thread of Clifford’s grandmother (Ruth Gordon of Harold and Maude fame) and her misadventures through the patrons she attempts to pick up at the hotel bar border on a romantic subplot that doesn’t lead anywhere. The fact that it doesn’t keeps this in pro-single territory.
Still, I enjoyed the film for its exploration of male friendship. The subplots are a bit distracting and the ending is predictable (Clifford finally fights Moody), but it was fun seeing the bully get his comeuppance, and there’s a worthy message here about platonic love that makes this film one of my top ten.