MGM // 1982 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // March 10th, 2008
It's happy days at Emerson High School where Barney gets Carrie-d away with his telekinesis! Har-Har!
As many people remember, the theatres in the early 1980s were filled to brim with teenage sex comedies in the wake of a little Canadian film called Porky's. What the filmmakers behind the 1982 sleazefest known only as Zapped! set out to do was to not only show some innocuous nudity, but also to spoof the film Carrie, which came out six years earlier. This low-budget "comedy" actually did well enough to warrant a 1989 sequel (Zapped Again!), though it failed to jump-start a movie career for Scott Baio, of Happy Days fame. He plays Barney Springboro, a senior student who spends endless hours in the lab of his high school experimenting with rats. With no teachers around to watch over him, he is also able to work with Jack Daniels whisky and cannibis extract. A girl named Bernadette (Felice Schachter, The Facts of Life) -- one of those high school outcasts who would be gorgeous if she just took her damn glasses off -- has a crush on our lab genious, and constantly tries to interview him for the school paper, but he turns her down every time. Meanwhile, his popular best friend Peyton Nichols (Willie Aames, Charles in Charge) seems to enjoy bangin' one of the school secretaries while at the same time pursuing the "super-hot" blonde babe Jane Mitchell (Heather Thomas, The Fall Guy).
One day, Peyton decides to slip some beer into a measurement of cannibis extract that Barney is using; after he leaves, an explosion occurs...and now Barney gets the power of telekinesis! At first, he doesn't even know what the ability is called, and of course it's only by accident that he uses it for the first time. When he starts flying a model -- which I swear is a hybrid of the Starship Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon -- he now thinks he may become invincible, but not before doing a homage to Taxi Driver in front of his bedroom mirror. Now that he has the power, then what should he do with it? Well, he decides to start by forcing open Jane's blouse while talking with her and her boyfriend. Soon, he also manipulates the school baseball team to win their first game, which astonishes the coach (Scatman Crothers, Twilight Zone: The Movie). And then, when he is able to telekinetically crack both the lens in Bernadette's glasses, he realizes -- get this -- how pretty she really is. Hell, if only Freddie Prinze, Jr. did that in She's All That he would would have won the bet within seconds! Anyway, Barney and Bernadette begin to date (awww!) and he manages to levitate a bed into the lab so they could make love. To be honest, that wasn't enough to convince me they had chemistry in their relationship. (Bad joke, I know, but hey, it fits with the other jokes in the script.)
I'm sure other reviewers (are there really others?) who have written about Zapped! have said the exact same thing: "If I was 12 years old, this movie would have been the bomb!" Oh, this is a bomb alright, but it's also weirdly amusing on some level. Written by Bruce Rubin and director Robert J. Rosenthal (who previously helmed the cult drive-in classics The Pom-Pom Girls and The Van), the movie is made up of mostly made up of jokes that are both lewd and lame, which is rather expected. Nevertheless, what I was (a little) surprised with is how Zapped! doesn't follow the same formulaic shenanigans. You would think a nerd like Barney would want to use his blessing as a means to get the stereotypical blonde into bed, but that is not the case here. It's his buddy Peyton who wants to get it on with her, while Barney decides to go out with Bernadette; as a matter of fact, the Peyton-Jane material is treated as a completely different subplot. It's really not until the climactic prom sequence -- something no teenage sex comedy is complete without -- that the two threads are brought together, albeit illogically.
The best thing I can say about Zapped! is it's tolerable. If the filmmakers took everything seriously, it would have been complete garbage, though it seems like all of them -- particularly the cast -- are having just having fun. I wouldn't be lying if I didn't admit that I did chuckle a couple of times. My two favorite lines -- which are pretty much the only good ones -- are, first, when one of the teachers discovers that Barney has been growing cannibis in the lab, and she runs to get the principal. While she is gone, however, Barney removes it and runs to burn it in the furnace. When the teacher and principal return, she insists that cannibis was in there, but he just says, "You must have smoked it!" The other line I liked is when Jane tells Peyton that she was faking it the entire time that she was having sex with him, and he responds: "That's why it was so good!" I'm not sure if I'm proud to admit that I liked those lines, but I did laugh at them. Being a low-budget production, the filmmakers obviously couldn't get rights to brand names, so they decided to invent such things as Relaxo prune juice and Shields condoms. Not very funny, but give them points for being original; however, I don't think there is anything more stupid than having beer cans that simply say "beer" on them.
As for the performances, well, what can you say? Scott Baio may be good-looking (my sister said that, ok!) but he can't act his way out of a wet paper sack. Much of what he did was make stern facial expressions to show he is about to move an object...did we really need 50 or so of them in the movie though? The adult actors -- which include such "guest stars" as Robert Mandon and Sue Ann Langdon -- are largely dull and unfunny; Mews Small, as Mrs. Springboro, is especially bad as she rips on Piper Laurie's crazed mother from Carrie, reduced to only whipping out a cross whennever Barney comes in the house. Scatman Crothers provides some much needed energy in his few scenes, and Felice Schachter is quite likable as Bernadette. However, the script annoyingly contradicts her character at one point when she rejects Barney's plan to play roulette with Peyton to make some money; earlier, she suggested that they could get Barney's powers detailed in a magazine which would lead to fame. Ok, what the hell is the difference there? Here is some useless Star Trek trivia also: there is an elaborate (but poor in terms of special effects) sequence in which Barney has a fantasy of being on the spaceship that he is moving, and all the characters are wearing the colored pajama shirts...but with Nike logos instead of the Federation emblem. Incidentally, the minor character of Gary Cooter (yes, that is his name) is played by Merritt Butrick, who played Admiral Kirk's son in Star Trek II and Star Trek III.
MGM has decided to dig out Zapped! for a bare-bones DVD release. While there are no extras included -- not even a theatrical trailer -- here are some good news for die-hard fans: there is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track! Plus, Zapped is available on a double sided, single layer disc, with 1.33:1 Full Frame on Side A and 1.85:1 Widescreen on Side B. Both prints hold up surprisingly well, as colors remain crisp and black levels are solid. There are also subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. I guess Baio, Aames, and Rosenthal were too busy -- or could it be embarrassed -- to do a commentary track. Or perhaps the actors are too busy working on a film version of Charles in Charge? If you ask me, this is too little for a DVD that cost $10 on Amazon; having Zapped Again on the other side or a seperate disc would have been satisfactory in my opinion. However, fans of the film should even be grateful that MGM got around to releasing it at all.
Admittedly, Zapped! doesn't revel in raunchiness as its plot suggests, though it fails miserably when attempting to spoof Carrie. The court finds the film guilty of being terminally moronic and zaps the characters into oblivion by the Nike Enterprise. However, MGM is acquitted by the court for their good intentions. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Rated R