Wednesday, December 27, 2006

[1980] MIDNIGHT MADNESS: This was mindbendingly, transcendentally stupid--a whole new dimension of stupid--but it works so hard at being stupid that it really grew on me as it went along. I mean, the plot isn't much of anything--a Los Angeles-wide scavenger hunt between five college-age teams--and the performances aren't on their own much of anything but somehow collectively they're charming. I think, for me, I'm willing to forgive a lot of the idiocy of this thing because director/writers Nankin and Wechter are ultimately very kind to their characters. There's nerds and fat girls and the movie isn't especially mean to them like it could be; even Eddie Deezen has some kind of dignity within the Midnight Madness game. The closest any of the characters get to being irredeemable villains is the spoiled rich kid Harold (Stephen Furst) who's more irrational than anything else and is saddled with a nagging father and a nagging girlfried, and the mean old landlady Mrs Grimhaus (Irene Tedrow) who calls the cops on the game. Which doesn't work since the game is so much fun the cops want to watch too! Yeah--it makes no sense. But scenes like the nerd team extending their moped antennas in unison or a fratboy hearing a choir of angels outside the Pabst brewery (and is this the origin of Pabst hipsterism?) and the much-ballyhooed "FAGABEEFE" (don't ask) lend it all a breezy charm. I don't want to overpraise it--it's no Caddyshack, though it shares that film's flaw of dull protagonists (in Midnight Madness, it's David Naughton's forced conflict with his brother, Michael J. Fox before he figured out how to act.) As a Disney production it obviously could not be Caddyshack. But I think the Disney restraint forced it to be goofy when it should have been vulgar, and made a it a lot more memorable than it should have been. Put this with Watcher In The Woods as the interesting 80s Disney experiments--Watcher the bloodless thriller, and Midnight Madness the sexless teen comedy.

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