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Vibes

Sony Pictures // PG // February 3, 2009
List Price: $19.94 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted February 16, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Vibes:
1988's Vibes seems like one of those projects that looked terrible on paper, but all the producers were too coked-up to understand. The odd supernatural adventure/comedy/romance about psychics caught up in an ancient smuggling scheme or something stars Jeff Goldblum, Cyndi Lauper and Peter Falk. I can hear it now; "Goldblum owes me a favor," says one. "Lauper's looking to get into acting," says another. "Falk has no idea what he's doing these days," says a third. Yet Vibes actually has four producers, so one of them persisted in pushing the damn thing through, though I'm hoping none of them were on drugs. The drugs should have provided something a little more reckless and dangerous than this pretty tame amalgam of Romancing The Stone, Raiders of the Lost Ark and ... I dunno ... Munchies?

Goldblum and Lauper play psychics following Falk and fifty thousand dollars to Ecuador to find Falk's kidnapped son. Or maybe they're looking for a legendary city of gold or something. Whatever the case, it's never that easy, (as we well know) since the beginning of the movie features a mythic glowing pyramid turning people into dust and whatnot. That said, it's a good bet that things will get complicated, and by the last frame you'll have a serious handprint on your forehead.

On the plus side there are a few laugh-out-loud moments and decent performances to almost redeem Vibes, before the worst final two minutes ever committed to celluloid.

But only the most stalwart or inebriated '80s fanatics (or serious Goldblum fetishists) will be able to look past the wealth of bad ideas in Vibes to enjoy its few minutes of joy. On the chopping block, sadly, is the notion that Vibes is a comedy. Goldblum's fabulously quirky timing is put to the test. It's never clear if he's manfully wading through the bulk of the ludicrous plot to get to the good stuff, or just phoning it in. If hanging on the line, his connection's marred by an inordinate amount of action and adventure (to please those expecting another Romancing The Stone) that's at best tepid, at worst totally out of place. Speaking of out of place, (and out of date) check out the unexplained and inexplicable overdependence on supernatural hi-jinx (not the psychic stuff either) propped up by truly low-rent special effects. If Cyndi Lauper straddling a glowing pyramid while raving like a meth-addled rabbi at a bris is your idea of thrilling viewing, get your wallet ready.

Here and there in the midst of a fairly bad movie are some sublimely silly moments, however. First up is a surprisingly not-completely-horrible Lauper. Sure, she's just playing herself, and her Betty Boop speaking voice is probably the reason her hair seems to perpetually be trying to climb off of her head, but she's a likable character, and a good foil (if not a terrible love interest) for Goldblum. That actor, by the way, is just south of his career apex as The Fly, but still able to trade on his intense quirkiness - if only most of his non-comedy material wasn't total crap. Including Peter Falk just leads to head scratching, until you remember that he elevates anything he's in, even this stupid role. At its best moments (that is, not often enough) Vibes reads like a ballroom dance sequence from The Muppet Show crossed with The Flintstones. A relaxed pace and effortless timing (from Falk and Goldblum mostly) helps to land a few zingers right on your jaw, as when Falk gives a messed up beggar a dollar, telling him to "chew it up real good." Or when Goldblum and Lauper sit in a bar; "I see you ordered another drink," he remarks, "would you like them to run a hose to your mouth?'

It's best not to give any of the other goodies away, I wouldn't want to drain any more fun out of Vibes. But wait for that "Robot House!!!" style ending. (Simpsons fans know what I'm talking about, Vibes takes the 'exasperated exclamation ending' to heretofore unheard of heights of stupidity.) I can imagine people leaving the theater after Vibes, not really understanding what they'd just seen. It's usually the wrong reaction to elicit from a movie, (unless it's a David Lynch movie) but Vibes certainly earns it. From its bizarre mish-mash of plot/genre elements and its horrifically misguided romantic pairing to its partial abandoning of its only strength - sharp jokes well-delivered - Vibes is a bit of a bummer.

The DVD

Video:
Sony Pictures Martini Movies series is of the new generation of DVD releases: relatively cruddy movies released under a catchy rubric and with the bare minimum of consideration. So goes Vibes, in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture toes the line of acceptability; it's neither particularly sharp nor clear, grainy but not too bad. There are some pivotal dimly lit, foggy, misty scenes in the mystical hills that are riddled with noise and film grain, and sporting an uneven texture that would look bad on VHS. Colors are slightly subdued (excepting of course La Lauper's wardrobe) and overall picture quality is OK, but not great, with minor edge enhancement cropping up occasionally.

Sound:
English Dolby 2.0 Surround Sound is also of the just-OK variety. Audio effects are at a minimum, so it's not a terribly active or exciting mix, and volume levels for dialog seem to fluctuate every now and again. But you're drinking martinis, right? So you won't notice.

Extras:
English Subtitles and Closed Captioning at least have purpose, while the short Original Trailer might turn you off from watching. A pair of two-minute Martini Minutes; "Secrets of Deception" and "How To Travel In Style" are simply clips-laden promos for other Martini Movies releases, with a drink recipe each for your trouble. There's also a drink recipe printed directly on the DVD.

Final Thoughts:
Vibes, one of Sony Pictures' Martini Movies, is a truly odd mix; take two parts Romancing The Stone-style South American adventure, pour in two parts supernatural peril, (shades of Raiders of the Lost Ark and the horrible sci-fi comedy Munchies) add one part off-kilter romance and a dash of actually funny comedy, and shake lackadaisically. You'll ultimately end up with a nasty mess in your neighbor's bushes. Headliners Goldblum, Falk and Lauper deliver their comedic zingers with real success, but there's far too much tepid action, lame-brained intrigue, baffling sorcery and one of the least likely romantic pairings in cinematic history to muck things up. '80s junkies should use a free drink coupon to garner this cocktail, others might wish to Rent It.

www.kurtdahlke.com

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