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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Zapped! (Blu-ray)
Zapped! (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // R // May 24, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted May 21, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Those aren't Heather Thomas' breasts in HD

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: '80s comedies
Likes: Gratuitous nudity, Scott Baio then
Dislikes: Scott Baio now, Willie Aames
Hates: Bare-bones releases

The Show
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 that take the name or brand and forget to bring the spirit as well.

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 brag this disc 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, thanks to a deal with his principal, has his own private 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 (Baio's future Charles in Charge co-star Willie Aames) is the richest kid in school and pitcher for the inexplicably popular baseball team, but he's best friends with a geek like Barney (partially as a way to fulfill his schemes.) 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 and get in the pants of blond Jane (Heather Thomas). 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 (thanks solely to her oversized glasses) 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 montages and goofy special-effects scenes.

The film is loaded with every '80s film stereotype, including the materialistic blond bombshell, 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), involving Albert Einstein and a salami bazooka, and a subplot involving Barney's mother, Satan and a ventriloquist's dummy.

The film also has a finale that, freed from the need to wrap up any kind of real story, aside from a weak attempt at a low-stakes late-game conflict for Barney, 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. Well that, and all the stuff they wouldn't be able to get away with in a teen comedy today, like Peyton having an affair with a school administrator, a bit about revenge porn, an erotic sex scene between high-schoolers and a generally rapey vibe at several points.

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. On the other hand, Crothers, Schachter and Baio, who plays wide-eyed, eyebrow-raising concentration as telekinesis, are enjoyable, as is Marya Small, who plays Barney's mother. But honestly, the acting is something of a secondary element to the set-ups and special effects, opticals which today look aged and laughable. But hey, so's the rest of the movie, which is why it's so much fun.

Now on Blu-ray, Zapped! is packed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with what has to be considered a travesty of cover art. Seriously, what can you get from this art other than "We had little to no materials, no interest in creating anything new and didn't want to use the poster art." Two headshots, some gradients and some textures and we're all done. Certainly not the best Olive FIlms' has brought us. The static menu (more Baio and Aames headshot goodness!) offers the scant choices of play and scene selections..There are no audio options and neither subtitles nor closed captioning.

The Quality
The previous DVD was good, with some minor issues with dirt and damage here and there. The 1.85:1, 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer on this disc takes a step closer to where it should be, though some minor bits of debris can be spotted (mainly in the roller coaster scene.) Overall, the image is impressive, with appropriate, well-saturated colors, especially in outdoor scenes, while black levels are good, but not great, with darker night scenes succumbing to some smudginess in areas. The level of fine detail is quite high though, and the image has a pleasing cinematic look thanks to consistent grain (however the theme park scenes and the dark prom scenes exhibit a good deal of noise.) Digital distractions are not a concern on this release.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track does the trick for a film that offers a little bit of everything, from clear dialogue (with obvious ADR-added off-screen lines) and effects stings to the rock-heavy ‘80s soundtrack. Everything is sufficiently clean and strong, with appropriate separation between the elements. You're not going to notice much of a difference between the channels, but everything sounds good, with no distortion present.

The Extras
Just like the DVD release that preceded it, this Blu-ray delivers zero extras.

The Bottom Line
Zapped! remains a silly bit of ‘80s sex-comedy fun--certainly not the finest film ever made, but undoubtedly enjoyable as a memento of a different time when you could use your telekinesis to perv on girls without being brought up on charges. Ahh, those were the days. The Blu-ray looks and sounds solid, but with no extras to enjoy, the value here is limited. For fans, having this B-level classic to watch anytime is worth dropping a few bucks, but the curious will want to give it a rental first.

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.

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*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.

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