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  Zapped! Clothing Optional
Year: 1982
Director: Robert J. Rosenthal
Stars: Scott Baio, Willie Aames, Robert Mandan, Felice Schachter, Scatman Crothers, Roger Bowen, Mews Small, Greg Bradford, Hilary Beane, Sue Ane Langdon, Hardy Keith, Curt Ayers, Merritt Butrick, Jennifer Chaplin, Irwin Keyes, Eddie Deezen
Genre: Comedy, Science Fiction, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Barney Springboro (Scott Baio) is a high school senior who is intent on making progress in the science department; currently he is putting drunken mice into tiny diving suits to test the effects of alcohol on divers, though he has other projects on the go as well, including growing what are hoped to be prize-winning orchids for Principal Coolidge (Robert Mandan). What he is not making progress with is the opposite sex, as he lusts after cheerleader Jane Mitchell (Heather Thomas) but hasn't a chance of getting close to her, and besides, his best friend Peyton Nichols (Willie Aames) is more proactive in that area. But what if Barney's research had unexpected consequences? What if a laboratory accident gave him psychic powers?

What if the makers of this decided to rip off the Disney comedies of the nineteen-sixties such as The Misadventures of Merlin Jones or The Absent-Minded Professor only adding sexual content to appeal to the young folks of the eighties? Yes, what then? It’s a sobering thought that anyone would be so reckless, live life on the filmmaking edge like that, but it happened, and the sole reason anyone remembers it isn't the scuba-diving mice (which appear to be models, before you get PETA on the phone), it's what Barney uses his powers for. You may recall another psychic teen called Carrie White from the Stephen King novel, later adapted for the screen, who also used her powers for mayhem, but Zapped! was somewhat different.

If they got anything right, it was what a typical adolescent would use telekinesis for, and it wouldn't be scientific research, it would be to satisfy their sex drive and need to get their own back on their supposed enemies, in this case combined. They didn't go overboard with the premise - much - until the grand finale at the prom, but once you see Barney can pop open girls' tops to see their bras, or Jane's bra at any rate, you can tell it's not going to be much of a stretch to go further. This wasn't a horror movie, though it might have felt that way if you were on the receiving end of the magic tricks, it was intended to make you laugh, but there wasn't much hilarious about it as there was a self-satisfied air about the proceedings.

As if the screenwriters had congratulated themselves on an idea that guaranteed their target audience would want to see it, then failed to do anything further than concoct reasons for the trick to happen over and over again. There wasn't an abundance of nudity, it had to be said, at least until the chaos at the prom where many would think it was finally living up to its promise, so in the main we had a selection of scenes of sitcom level humour only with smut added. You have to be thankful Peyton wasn't the possessor of the powers, since he was even less scrupulous than Barney, but in contrast our hero didn't seem the kind of guy who would be especially vindictive, he was too wholesome for that, so it was jarring to watch him be corrupted with his latest abilities.

Not quite jarring enough to be entirely offputting, this was a lightweight item of silly fluff after all, but the whole notion of sexing up what otherwise could have been perfectly adequate for undemanding kids spoke to an uncertainty about where comedies were heading in the eighties. Did it go the Porky's route and pander to the lowest common denominator, or did it take advantage of the new advances in special effects and let their imagination loose? When you saw Barney fly his model spaceship which curiously was a cross between the Millennium Falcon and the Starship Enterprise (in that they stuck parts of one onto the other) then you might be thinking, fair enough, he's a nerd, that is what he'd do. However, when you saw him tearing open girls' clothes with his mind, it was more sexual assault-y than you imagine the filmmakers intended, no matter that he did it to certain boys as well. What you had was something you can't imagine would be made today, but served as a time capsule for that reason, for better or worse. Oh, and if you're getting Heather Thomas and Heather Locklear mixed up, Heather was in The Fall Guy and Heather was in TJ Hooker. Music by Charles Fox.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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