In 10 Words or Less
Telekinesis and nudity: two great tastes that taste great together.
Loves: '80s comedies
Likes: Gratuitous nudity, Scott Baio then
Dislikes: Scott Baio now, Willie Aames
Hates: Bare-bones releases
In the '80s, you could make a stupid movie and end up with something fun and re-watchable, because you were able to tell a story in an unrealistic world with abandon. It just worked. Today, if you make a stupid movie, it either has no point (see the awful world of Date/Epic/Scary Movie) or something that is the opposite of fun (see any of the many star vehicles that take themselves way too seriously.) But even worse would be any of the remakes of those great '80s movies, especially the ones that attempt to put an urban spin on them (I'm looking at you Love Don't Cost A Thing. And you too Who's Your Caddy?)
Sadly, someday some studio will decide it's time to remake Zapped! And will turn it into a mess influenced by testing, stripping it of its more over-the-top elements, and replacing them with a hip-hop soundtrack and probably one of the Jonas Brothers. Thankfully, we'll be able to pluck our DVD of the original off our shelves and enjoy this ribald teen-male comic take on Carrie. We just can't look too closely or we'll see the cracks in what is a flawed, yet entertaining movie.
Barney (Scott Baio) is your average teenage nerd, who just happens to have the high-school science lab at his disposal, 24 hours a day, where he experiments with the effect of alcohol on mice; and growth solutions to create massive, hyper-effective marijuana plants. His buddy Peyton (Willie Aames) is the richest kid in school, but he's best friends with a geek like Barney for some unknown reason. Together, they are middle-of-the-road citizens at Emerson High, neither popular nor invisible. They are just there.
Then, a freak accident in the lab gives Barney telekinetic powers, and Peyton decides to take full advantage of it to win some bets. Despite such a major change, the only difference in Barney's everyday life is the intrusion of Bernadette (Felice Schachter, "The Facts of Life"), a geeky girl who discovers Barney's powers and sees it as an opportunity for research. Of course, such a close working relationship soon blossoms into a romantic one, but the problem is, that's all that happens, as there's no plot in this movie, just a premise that plays out in a number of goofy special-effects scenes.
The film is loaded with every '80s film stereotype, including the materialistic blond bombshell (Heather Thomas), her rich jerk jock boyfriend, the nameless high-school henchmen, the falling-in-love montage, the awful fashion and copious female nudity. But it's also got some of the off-kilter moments that later were the realm of "Savage" Steve Holland (Better Off Dead), which makes it stand out from the pack, including a trippy hallucination on the part of Barney's baseball coach (the always entertaining Scatman Crothers) and a subplot involving Barney's mother and a ventriloquist's dummy.
The film also has a finale that, freed from the need to wrap up any kind of story, utilizes questionable motivation to present a ridiculous prom scene that may be the greatest display of bad acting and gratuitous nudity ever caught on film. It's really a wonder to behold and the thing you'll remember best when you think of this movie.
What you'll try to forget are some awful performances, led by Aames, who couldn't find an emotion he couldn't overplay, and Thomas, whose turn as the hottest girl in school is a pageant of wooden deliveries. Only Crothers, Schachter and Baio, who plays eyebrow-raising concentration as telekinesis, are any good, but when you have a movie without a plot, do you need actors with ability? All you really need are special effects, which today are rather laughable. But hey, so's the rest of the movie, which is why it's so much fun.
The Flipper DVD (full-frame on one side, anamorphic widescreen on the other) is packed in a standard keepcase, and features a static anamorphic widescreen main menu with options to watch the film, select scenes and adjust languages. Now I could be wrong, and I haven't seen it elsewhere, but this menu, which has a torso in a t-shirt, with the film's poster on it and the film's name and options in a bubbly '80s font, against a background covered with the word "Ha," feels suspiciously like a generic DVD design for '80s comedies, pointing to even less effort on catalog DVDs (Boy, I can't wait for pay for High-Def DVD catalog titles. ) Audio option include English mono and Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, while subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French, along with closed captioning.
I didn't know exactly what to expect from a film that's over 25 years old and as respected as a Republican vice-presidential candidate, but this one actually looks pretty fresh, with some bright vivid colors and generally clean image, that's available in both full-frame and widescreen. Some minor damage during the titles gives way to a mostly clear picture with a good level of detail the rest of the way, with the exception of some minor dirt and some excessive grain during the darker prom scenes.
The audio is just as you would guess, as the Dolby Digital 2.0 track delivers clear dialogue and strong music right down the middle, with no noticeable separation between the channels. Everything sounds good though, especially the especially '80s soundtrack, full of ballady rock.
Apparently, they've been zapped. Nothing here, not even a trailer.
The Bottom Line
I remember Zapped! fondly from my younger days, and thus, I probably give it more respect than it may really deserve, but even when watching it with a more critical eye, it's still a fun piece of sex-comedy fluff, loaded with laughable gaps in logic. It all depends in your personal taste and how you approach the film. The DVD looks and sounds solid for its age and prominence, but the lack of extras has to be disappointing to fans, who would have loved for a Baio commentary (and considering his new-found fame, it probably would have moved some DVDs.) If you enjoy a cheesy '80s comedy and can let your mind wander when it comes to plot, this isn't a bad way to spend some time.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.