Zandalee (1991)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Con Air

Miami Hustle

Ultimate Desires


Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

In the back Bayou, men settle their
differences with the traditional
"Dance of the Alligator."
Every famous, respected Hollywood Actor has a skeleton in his or her closet. Jennifer Aniston has Leprechaun. Sylvester Stallone has The Party at Kitty and Stud's. And when it comes to Nicholas Cage, the closet sometimes resembles an Evil Dead film. Besides Valley Girl and a bunch of weird (but often good) films like Raising Arizona and Vampire's Kiss, Nick also made Zandalee, a silly erotic drama that shows us a hell of a lot more of Judge Reinhold's butt than we ever needed to see.

We first meet Zandalee (Erika Anderson) dancing naked around a bedroom. From there, the film goes way downhill, mainly because of the introduction of Judge Reinhold (alumnus of the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre), playing Zandalee's husband, a poet named Thierry. Just so there are no misunderstandings, we don't see Judge Reinhold's naked butt in the first scene. Zandalee saves that particular pleasure for later in the film.

In the years that Zan and Thierry have been married, Thierry's poetry has gone to hell, along with his relationship with his wife. You know, this is the nineties. Any movie that equates creative impotence with sexual impotence had better darn well come up with something new to say about the subject. Instead, Zandalee unfolds in exactly the way you would expect. Except for showing us Judge Reinhold's butt, which we would never expect.

During a tragic lapse of judgment,
Zandalee allows Jerry Springer to be
her video biographer.
Enter Johnny, played by Nick Cage. He's a painter and childhood friend of Thierry's who begins hitting on Zandalee in a most blatant fashion when Thierry introduces him to her. Boy, when you need someone to act really wacked out, call on Nick Cage. Johnny was actually in jail for a while, and this allows the indroduction of Steve Buscemi (credited only as "OPP Man") as a jailhouse acquaintance of Johnny's who drifts in and out of the plot for no good reason.

As if the blatant nudity of the film's first couple of minutes didn't tip you off (almost always a sign of bad things to come), Johnny and Zandalee begin a torrid and graphic sex affair. Not love affair mind you, because in between each tryst, the two characters can barely stand to be in one another's company. We're supposed to believe that Zandalee is attracted to Johnny because he can still paint and has the passion that goes with active creativity, but the truth is that the artist line is a load of crap. Thierry has neglected her so badly that she'd probably hop in the sack with just about anyone.

Eventually, Thierry catches on to the affair, and the usual rounds of jealousy and recriminations begin. Zandalee must decide if she can return to married life with a self-proclaimed "paraplegic of the soul" or the grody painter dude whose most profound statement is: "If I can't paint, everything just turns to shit." Choices, choices.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours."
Other than gratuitous nudity, there is nothing particularly erotic in Zandalee, and it certainly isn't thrilling. So we can't really say that Zandalee is one of the myriad Erotic Thrillers that flood video store shelves every month. However, the director of the movie, Sam Pillsbury, seems to have had quite a career making made-for-tv thrillers with names like Sins of Silence and Shadows of Desire. Pillsbury also made Free Willy 3, which in retrospect may not be the film we thought it was.

Zandalee also acts a primer to anybody out there who wants to become a loan shark. It teaches the following lesson: If you try to kill someone who is in arrearsto you, and you kill someone standing next to him instead, do not, repeat do not yell your catchphrase at the top of your lungs as you make your getaway. This is because the person who you tried to kill owes you a lot of money, and knows who you are, and can now put you in jail pretty easily.

Final words about Zandalee: The people who make these lousy skin flicks know that we're only tuning in to see some gratuitous nudity -- why do they insist on foisting a lousy story upon the viewing public as part of the deal? Zandalee might have made a great Playboy video, but as a love story about art, passion, and betrayal, it's an utter disappointment. We longed for Cage to appear in full Elvis regalia, parachuting into the scene from above -- anything to break the monotony.

Review date: 09/30/1998

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*Johnny's other memorable line was: "This duck is really succulent." We felt compelled to document this. Go back!