Robert Altman takes on the raunchy teen comedy, and National Lampoon character's and smears it in its inverted excesses as he did for the disaster sci-fi in "Quintet", noir in "The Long Goodbye", and the western in "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" ETC.(to make a short list). "O.C. and Stiggs" despite outward appearances is more steeped in awkward black comedy, satire, and absurdity than the usual adolescent wish fulfilment or attempts at pathos that categorized John Hughes output in the same era.
This is very much anti-Hughes film. Ray Walston's ailing grandfather who continuously tells grisly homicide stories, is far from any of the warm Hughes parents. Stigg's family isn't much better, the parents seem largely oblivious to anything Stiggs says when he refers to picking up sluts, commits crimes, procuring dynamite, but snap to attention when he accuses them of not listening.
The film opens with the boys in various costumes, as if were watching the opening credits of a tv show and seeing a montage of their global adventures, as a central image of them surfing repeats, until the camera pulls back (a few moments after Altman's name comes on the credits), and we see the boys are at a Great America Water Park (the opening shot is also of an American flag). A flixter writer named Theodore Fogelsanger eloquently writes, "the Altmanesque telephoto perspective dilutes film language, reduces the view to that of a Brechtian theater."
A shot like that doesn't change the nature of the film, or draw our attention away from the episodic pranks which make up it's plot, but it does communicate surplus information for careful viewers, as all Altman films do.
The style in an Altman film is shot can often by oppositional the content (see McCabe and Mrs. Miller or Quintet), and "OC And Stiggs" would seem to be no exception as it is easily, from a purely cinematic and technical standpoint, the best teen film of the 80's.
Members of the Shwab family include John Hughes favorite John Cryer as the hapless son who spends his evening breathing heavy and muttering to himself as he reads porn magazines until his "Leaving Las Vegas" level alcoholic mother shoes him out of the living room.::SPOILEROVER::