Anchor Bay // 1980 // 112 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 18th, 2001
The most fun you'll ever have...in the dark!
Ah, the decadent '80s. Who can forget the years of big hair, Michael Jackson, and made-for-TV movies that all seemed to star at least one of the Van Patten family members. Unfortunately, the tele-flick Midnight Madness was without the Van Pattens, though it did have Paul Reubens (AKA Pee-Wee Herman) and Michael J. Fox (Back To The Future) in their feature film debuts. Throw in David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London), Stephen Furst (Animal House), and Eddie Deezen (Grease) and you've got Midnight Madness!
What happens when a game mastermind decides to plan an all-night marathon of wackiness and fun? I'll tell you what...madness! Midnight Madness!
In Los Angeles, Leon (a very anorexic looking Alan Solomon) is putting together the ultimate (and I use that word very loosely) college party! He's devised a nutty game that spans the entire city of L.A., and has invited some local college students to play. Each team is made up of varying contestants (i.e., jocks, geeks, good guys, bad guys, et cetera), and each one has a team leader: The "good guys" are led by Adam (Naughton), the "bad guys" by Harold (Furst), the "geeks" by Wesley (Deezen), the "jocks" by Lavitas (Brad Wilkin), and a group of weird girls are led by Maggie (Donna Roswell).
The point of the game is to find clues along the way that lead to other clues, and ultimately the finish line (this ain't no Usual Suspects, folks). Along the way each team will run into wacky slapstick, encounter goofy characters, and bop to some very '80s rock and roll. As the theme song "Midnight Madness" coos:
"Come see how good a night can be / Are you ready for a brand new game?"
When examining Midnight Madness, you can't just look at the film itself. Taken on its own, Midnight Madness is a long, sad movie. The story is flimsy at best and the acting is way below par (we're talking in the negatives). In any other instance, Midnight Madness would have been banished to the island of film obscurity. Though all this is true, Midnight Madness perseveres to become a fun romp through 1980; sort of like an interactive time travel adventure. See hairstyles that will make you cringe! Hear dialogue that reminds you of better days! Live the decade of big spenders and Duran Duran! God bless Anchor Bay for saving this little gem.
Midnight Madness will not win you over with its acting. Not one person in this whole film looks like they even tried to bring a realistic personality to the screen. If an actor is playing a geek, he PLAYS a geek. The same goes for jocks and crotchety old people. Exaggeration is the key to this film. Stephen Furst takes this to the extreme with his portrayal of Harold. Harold is a bad guy. He seems to be all seven deadly sins rolled into one package: greed, sloth, gluttony, et cetera. Furst manages to make the character of Harold into a caricature, a man who bounces around like a gorilla and makes more putty faces than Jim Carrey. Yet, by the end of the movie, did I care? Not really. If this film came any later I might have cried foul, but I accept and embrace the fact that everyone on screen is going to mug for all they're worth. Even Michael J. Fox, the king of comedic timing, can't seem to get it right. He fumbles on his lines like a drunken football player. Since this was his first film, we're letting that slide. Watching a very chunky Fox waddle across screen is a hoot in and of itself. The rest of the cast is just as silly and strange. David Naughton would make John Landis' An American Werewolf in London the next year, and I am sure this film never ever showed up on his resume again. Finally there's Peggy and Lulu (Betsy Lynn and Carol Gwynn Thompson), two giggling sisters who are only on screen to be bombarded with fat jokes (and, indeed, they are larger than life). Like Midnight Madness, it must be seen to be believed.
The story centers around the five teams, and not once did I believe they were able to intelligently figure out the clues. Leon's hints are cryptic and puzzling, and this cast has the combined cranial capacity of a taco. The script slyly alludes to sex, though it's never blatant (this was originally a Disney release, so there you go). This film was made in the time when every emotional moment was paired with equally emotional music, a swelling mix of "Dynasty" and Henry Mancini. The music seems to scream, "See how these two people have fallen in love? Isn't it beautiful?"
Midnight Madness is presented in a full frame version, and since this was a TV movie, I suspect that it was originally shot this way. Reviewing the quality almost seems moot; there was much grain and dirt spotted, and the picture tended to be soft in areas. Colors were bright with some muting, and blacks were generally solid. Even with all these troubles, Midnight Madness is still about as good as you're going to get. The inconsistencies with the picture give it even more of an '80s quality. The audio is presented in Dolby Surround 2.0 and is passable. The dialogue was clear enough, the music and effects decent...we're looking straight down the middle of the road.
No special features are included, unless you count the liner notes on the flip side of the outer sleeve (which includes such juicy tidbits as Michael J. Fox playing a fifteen year old when he was really eighteen).
Reporting the negative about this film would just bring me bad karma, I know it.
For the price of around 20-25 dollars, this is not worth the price. As a rental it's a blast to watch with anyone who remembers Pong, women's soccer shorts, or Pabst Blue Ribbon. The transfer is ho-hum, the audio passable, the extras not there...but who cares? When you've got the fever, it must be Midnight Madness!!
Free to go, though more than one viewing will melt your brain.
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated PG