In the 1980's there were a great many "teen titty films," in which a typically overaged cast of wannabe movie stars played horndog teenaged boys and at-first-quite- Puritan-but-then-suspiciously-easy teenaged girls. Viewed as a kind of Holy Grail by then-adolescent boys, these movies usually featured underdog everyday Joes oppressed by dumb-jock overlord bullies. The heroes are usually unsuccessful at getting girls or exacting revenge upon the bullies until some coincidence, invention, or well-crafted plan (but usually coincidence) allows them to do so.
All of these things are secondary, however, to the promise of a flash of breast or the hastily-revealed derriere of one (or more) of the girls in the flick. Entries in this sub-genre include the innumerable and execrable Porky's films, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, My Tutor, and the movie under discussion today: Zapped! We are sorry to report that, despite the highly-touted (by classmate Joey in the seventh grade) finale during which an entire prom loses its clothing, this movie is too dull to keep viewers awake until they can reach that titillating final scene.
The Gruesome Twosome.
The underdog heroes in Zapped! are Barney Springboro and Peyton Nichols, played by those eternal on-screen partners-in-crime, Scott Baio and Willie Aames. Apparently the acting chemistry between these two actors was so great in Zapped! that shortly thereafter they were paired together in the TV series Charles in Charge, which lasted until 1990. In that great decade known as the Eighties, Scott and Willie were not just an acting team -- they were an institution.
Baio's nerdy Barney character spends all of his time in the school science lab, experimenting with chemicals and mice. Our introduction to Barney involves drunken scuba diving mice, an idea which surely sent the screenwriter into hysterics, but loses a lot in the execution. At Peyton's behest, Barney is testing his super-grow plant formula on a batch of marijuana plants, which are conveniently hidden behind the school principal's prize orchids. At our high schools, the nerdy science kids went home after school to watch Robotech. In the world of Zapped!, nerdy science kids experiment freely with mind-altering drugs.
Brandi in Mallrats?
Nope, it's Bernadette in Zapped!
In a fashion similar to that which produced the youth formula in Monkey Business, some of Barney's chemicals (and some of Peyton's cheap beer) are combined to produce a potion that provides telekinetic abilities to its consumer. Although the effects are initially unnoticed by Barney (who has only fed the formula to a mouse), he is soon enveloped in a cloud of the stuff and begins to notice the fact that he can now move things around just by screwing his face into an uncomfortable position.
What does Barney do with these new powers? Mostly, he tries to impress Bernadette (Felice Schachter), an intellectual but cute fellow student. Barney also uses his new powers to fufill certain adolescent fantasies, such as hitting a winning home run, and exposing Heather Thomas' bra.
Unfortunately, the screenwriters couldn't come up with enough stuff for Barney to do to fill an entire the movie. Geez, how could they? Movies are sooooo long. We're pretty sure Zapped! was eight hours long, at least. So there are numerous, annoying sub plots that boost the film up to feature length (and beyond). Peyton lusts after Jane (Thomas), who resists his charms because her college-age boyfriend has promised her a trip to Hawaii for graduation. Scatman Crothers plays the school's gym coach, who at one point gets high off second-hand supergrown Mary Jane and has a dream about Einstein and salami. An entire five minutes of screen time is wasted on a Star Trek fantasy during which Barney levitates a model spaceship around his bedroom. Finally, there's the budding romance between the school's principal and one teacher (Sue Ann Langdon). This last one is not so much a subplot as a running gag -- as in you will gag and run everytime it appears.
You shouldn't experiment on yourself.
Nothing comes together in the film's climatic prom scene, which exists only to inject some last shots of female nudity into the proceedings. It's easy to imagine how this scene came into being. The writers got together and said, "You know what would be really cool? Porky's meets Carrie!" And so we get a prom scene where Barney rips the clothes off of most of the females present, though the nudity is of the coy, peeking kind. When breasts do show up in Zapped! they tend to appear in close-up, independent of any woman they might be attached to. We guess that makes it easier to body-double actresses with pesky no-nudity clauses.
Boring, boring, boring. As we slogged through this dreck, we begged, pleaded and threatened the film constantly in the hope that we could somehow warp reality into making this movie funnier. Instead we got Scott Baio telekinetically causing his father to douse himself with prune juice. Next!
* Not that it's unfunny, precisely, but with the ability to make complicated props like this, we think they could have come up with a better gag. Go back!
* Although, without the rights to either the Star Wars or the Star Trek franchises, they had to settle for a spaceship built out of pieces of both the Millenium Falcon and the Enterprise model kits. Homage or just cheap prop-making? You decide. Go back!
* Other references to Carrie can be found in the scenes with Barney's religious mother, who not only spends her time in fear of Barney's evil powers, but later calls in some priests a laThe Exorcist. Go back!