Judge Patrick Naugle may want to focus on Frankie and Annette teaming up one last time, but I'd rather point out that Pee-Wee Herman is in this movie!
Surf's up, dude!
Get your surfboard ready and your attitude in place! Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon are going Back to the Beach! It's been many years since these two adorable lovebirds romped in the waves and sand. It seems that the years haven't been kind to "The Big Kahuna"—Frankie gave up surfing after a near fatal accident against the biggest wave anyone's ever seen. Now he sells used cars while his doting wife, Annette, makes peanut butter sandwiches for their emotionally confused young son, Bobby (Damien Slade). The family decides to take a vacation and stop off in California to visit their daughter, Sandi (Lori Loughlin, TV's Full House), and her hunky surfboarding fiancé, Michael (Tommy Hinkley, The Cable Guy). When both Frankie and Annette and Sandi and Michael get into separate fights, all of the participants go their separate ways. But don't fret—with a little beach magic and some rockin' songs by Fishbone and Eddie Money, these two couples will find a way to live, love, learn, and hang-10, all to the tune of a raging beach bonfire.
It's funny how much I enjoyed Back to the Beach considering I've never seen any of those old Frankie Avalon / Annette Funicello movies. Beach Blanket Bingo somehow slipped by me during my teen years, and for some odd reason I think that may have been for the best. However, when I was a kid I did make sure to catch Back to the Beach, a good-natured, bawdy surfing romp that features many familiar faces, a lot of surfing wax and, just for good measure, Pee-Wee Herman crooning that the "bird is the word."
Does all of that sound strange to you? Then you've got a good idea of what Back to the Beach is like. It's obvious that no one on this production took the film seriously, and for good reason—everything is played for laughs, including the screenplay by no less than six writers. The surfing stunts sport Frankie Avalon riding a stationary board in front of a fake wave background. Former TV stars like Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Bob Denver, and Don Adams spoof their images from one scene to the next. Avalon and Funicello—both looking better than anyone expected—whoop it up on-screen together in what would end up as one of their last collaborations. But what a collaboration it is!
Yet the real scene-stealer in the film is Demian Slade (Better Off Dead), Frankie and Annette's cinematic love child Bobby, who comes across like a combination of big brother Wayne from The Wonder Years, a Hell's Angel biker, and a whiney little nebbish who needs a good swift kick in the rear. Shooting zingers faster than Annette can spread Skippy peanut butter (great jokes about that delicious product abound throughout the film), Slade practically picks up the film and takes it for his own. The supporting players—including an adorable Lori Loughlin, goofy Tommy Hinkley, and an ageless Connie Stevens—do their best to keep a straight face throughout the whole ordeal.
Is Back to the Beach any good? You know, I gotta admit that I liked it when I was a kid and I still like it as an adult. I laughed in a few spots, the music is upbeat and fun, and by God there isn't a mean bone in its celluloid body. How many movies can you honestly say that about in 2004? Back to the Beach is worth a look for anyone who wants to take a vacation but can't take the time off of work. Cowabunga!
Back to the Beach is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen with an anamorphic enhancement for 16x9 TV sets. The transfer on this disc is good, if not great. Most of the scenes feature solid colors and dark black levels. A minimum of dirt and grain goes a long way, and happily Back to the Beach sports hardly any major flaws. Paramount has done a nice job of making a mediocre 1980s comedy look better than it should.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and Dolby Stereo (French). There isn't a lot going on in this mix worth writing about—the corny dialogue, beach blanket music, and sound effects are well mixed without much hiss or distortion. The biggest 5.1 boost comes in the form of the music score and background songs—otherwise this is a fairly front-heavy mix. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
On par with most Paramount releases, there isn't a single extra feature to be found on this disc. Wipe out!
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