A pair of child stars from the early '80s—Diff'rent Strokes sister turned celebrated ex-con Dana Plato and E.T. star Henry Thomas—turns up in a pair of recently released, low-budget films which illustrate the vastly different paths the two have traveled since their celebrated childhoods. After making E.T. and the less successful Misunderstood and Cloak & Dagger, Thomas acted only sporadically, but has since settled into a comfortable niche as a handsome and reasonably gifted, strait-laced character actor in the Robert Sean Leonard/Christian Bale mold. In his latest film, Hijacking Hollywood, he puts his boyish good looks and puppy-dog charm to good use as a Midwestern college grad who uses family connections to land a job as a production assistant on a massive Hollywood blockbuster sequel titled Moby Dick II: Ahab's Revenge. Quickly disillusioned with his lowly status and the abusive nature of his superiors, Thomas soon hits upon a plan to exact revenge on his sadistic bosses by kidnapping the extraordinarily expensive film. While the world probably wasn't begging for yet another Hollywood satire focusing on abusive studio heads and their disgruntled employees, Hijacking Hollywood is far more compelling than most films of its ilk. That's primarily because it tends to shy away from broad, universally known Hollywood stereotypes in favor of sharply drawn characters: Two cases in point are Thomas' likable protagonist and Kids In The Hall alumnus Scott Thompson as Thomas' boss, a petty sadist whose dictatorial mean streak and massive ego can't quite hide the fact that his job consists solely of yelling and berating the production assistants who labor under him. The shamelessly titled Different Strokes, on the other hand, lacks anything resembling even community-theater-level acting. Ostensibly a comeback vehicle for Plato, who hasn't acted in a film since 1992's Bikini Beach Race (a.k.a. The Sex Puppets), the film features a grown-up and significantly silicone-enhanced Plato as a lesbian photographer. She arrives at the home of a Los Angeles photographer (Bentley Mitchum of Ruby In Paradise and Teenage Bonnie And Klepto Clyde) and his dim-witted girlfriend (Landon Hall) while on business, and proceeds to shake up their staid lives. She quickly seduces human mannequin Hall, leading to a hilarious montage sequence that seems lifted from a feminine-hygiene commercial: The two women, having recently discovered the joys of sapphic sensuality, frolic in slow-motion in a meadow, caress each other's hair, and tenderly feed each other fruit. Hall soon decides to leave her boorish boyfriend, leading to an explosive final confrontation in which Mitchum angrily accuses her of being a muff-diver, to which Hall, newly empowered by her blossoming sexuality, replies that it takes one to know one. Different Strokes is notable mainly for its aggressive lack of shame. From its title to its threadbare plot to its community-access-level production values, the film reeks of crass exploitation. Plato is predictably terrible in the lead role, but the whole thing is amateurish enough that her heinous lack of talent never really stands out. And once the novelty of watching Gary Coleman's TV sister engaging in soft-core debauchery wears off, you're left with little more than an elaborate home movie trading on the notoriety of one of television's saddest casualties.

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