The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Movie Reviews - E
Earth Girls Are Easy
1988, Kestrel/Odyssey, Rated PG

Geena Davis
Jeff Goldblum
Julie Brown

Directed by Julien Temple
Written by Julie Brown, Charlie Coffey & Terrence E. McNally

Valerie (Geena Davis) is a Valley Girl manicurist whose fiance turns out to be a flagrant womanizer. When this becomes apparent to her she is understandably blue. But not as blue as one of the trio of furry aliens (Jeff Goldblum, Daman Wayans and Jim Carrey) who crash their spaceship into her swimming pool, and who try to assimilate into their new environment by mimicking everything they see and hear. Until they can get their craft in working condition again, Valerie takes it upon herself to help them blend in. She bundles them off to the beauty salon where she works and has her friend Candy (Julie Brown) give them a makeover. The first step is shaving all their fur off. Lo and behold, they are transformed into three hunky guys, and it comes as no surprise that val-queen Candy's first impulse is to take them out on the town. Since this is southern California, the aliens' behavior doesn't seem any more bizarre than that of the human inhabitants. Take Woody, for example. Played by Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap, D.A.R.Y.L.), Woody is a surfer dude-pool cleaner whose motto is "Waste your brain, wax your board, pray for waves." In other words, our three aliens pretty much fit right in. And that's the whole idea in this zany film that is part sci-fi musical and goofball comedy that pokes light-hearted fun at the entire Valley subculture of the Eighties.
Davis, Goldblum, Wayans, Carrey and McKean are all splendid in their roles, but the lion's share of the credit for the pure fun of this film must go to Julie Brown, who in her career has been actress, writer, director, producer and composer. Not only does Brown create in Candy the ultimate Valley Girl, but she composes many of the tunes in this pseudo-musical, the most memorable of which is "'Cause I'm A Blond," the best song on the soundtrack. It's simply hilarious, and ranks with the unintentional holdup perpetrated with a toy gun by the clueless aliens Zeebo and Wiploc (Wayans and Carrey), as the two funniest parts of the film. Unfortunately, some of the other gags are only mildly amusing, and the rest of the songs are fairly forgettable. Nonetheless, if you can accept Earth Girls Are Easy for what it is -- high camp, you'll be smiling all the way through. Critics who complain that the film is illogical and rife with continuity problems just don't get it. This isn't supposed to be a remake of Cocoon. Take Candy's advice and have a "mental margarita," then sit back and enjoy this romp. And if you recognize the satire, that's a bonus.

Eighties Club rating: ***

US box office: $3.9 million
US release date: 5.12.89

"'Cause I'm A Blond," Julie Brown
"Summer Of Love," B-52s
"Brand New Girl," Julie Brown
"Route 66," Depeche Mode
"The Ground You Walk On," Geena Davis
"Earth Girls Are Easy," Niles Rodger
"Who Do You Love"
Jesus & Mary Chain
(& more; Sire Records)

8 Million Ways To Die
1985, CBS/Fox, Rated R

Jeff Bridges
Rosanna Arquette
Andy Garcia

Directed by Hal Ashby
Written by David Lee Henry & Oliver Stone from the novel by Lawrence Block

This film, based on the Lawrence Block novel, starts out in a promising fashion, as Sheriff's Department detective Matt Scudder (Jeff Bridges) kills a drug suspect in front of the man's children and comes completely unraveled as a result.  Seeking solace in the bottle, he loses his job and his family.  On the slow and painful road to recovery, Scudder is approached by a call girl named Alexandra, who wants to quit but fears her pimp.  Scudder doesn't take her seriously -- until she ends up dead.  This provokes another drinking binge on his part, so that he is barely able to function as he investigates the murder and in so doing becomes involved with yet another prostitute, Sarah (Rosanna Arquette), and through her a drug kingpin named Angel Maldonado (Andy Garcia.)  Scudder falls for Sarah, and to get her out of Maldonado's clutches he makes off with 150 "keys" of cocaine in order to make a trade.
Bridges gives a convincing performance as Scudder, but the film itself degenerates early on into a perplexing and, at times, annoying excursion into the Miami Vice-style of filmmaking, all  flash and no substance (with the exception of the scenes where Scudder struggles with his drinking problem.)  The scenes are much too long and a lot of the dialogue seems unscripted and often incomprehensible.  Andy Garcia is a competent actor, but he's atrocious in this film, and gives us what can only be called a parody of Al Pacino's Scarface. He fails to endow Maldonado with any menace, and chews up so much scenery there's really not much left of the film by the time he's done.  The climactic scene in which Scudder tries to trade the cocaine for Sara is filled with so much posturing and screaming that it's almost embarrassing to watch.  Only Bridges -- and the catchy soundtrack -- saves this one from the cellar.

Eighties Club rating:  **

US box office: $1.3 million

1981, 20th Century Fox, Rated R

William Hurt
Sigourney Weaver
James Woods

Directed by Peter Yates
Written by Steve Tesich

Between Altered States (1980), which showed the moviegoing world that he was no ordinary actor, and Body Heat (1981), which catapulted him into superstardom, William Hurt made this thriller, starring as Darryl Deever, ex-Marine and Vietnam vet who works as the janitor in an office building and one night discovers that the owner of an international trading firm, a Mr. Long, has been murdered in his office. It's a discovery that, as luck would have it, brings him into contact with Tony Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver), a high-class society girl doubling as reporter whom he has had a crush on for months. Tony is in a relationship with Joseph (Christopher Plummer), who's involved in efforts to get Jews out of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, Darryl's buddy and fellow vet, Aldo Mercer (James Woods), is the prime suspect in the murder of Long, because the latter was responsible for Aldo losing his job. The two detectives on the job (Morgan Freeman and Steven Hill) spend most of their time following him around. But, as -- again -- luck would have it -- Joseph is the real murderer, and now he's out to kill Deever, who has become his rival for Tony's affections.
Many fine thrillers revolve around coincidence, the unexpected chance encounter, but Steve Tesich's screenplay doesn't just employ such a contrivance, it depends on it to the point where the plausibility of the plot -- not to mention the credulity of the viewer -- is stretched beyond the breaking point. Darryl is obsessed with a woman who is seeing a man who murders his co-conspirator in the same building in which Darryl works? That isn't coincidence, or even bad karma. It's just bad writing. Perhaps the biggest crime of all is the waste of talent. This is an all-star cast if ever there was one, but Woods, Hill and Freeman are wasted on minor, one-dimensional characters, while Sigourney Weaver has little to do save look shocked and befuddled as her carefully-crafted upper-class future comes unraveled. Meanwhile, Hurt is ambivalent about his character, who one moment seems like a good, decent fellow caught in a web of danger and deceit, and then comes across as almost psychotic in his unhealthy obsession for a woman whose newscasts have become the center of his drab existence. Numerous potentially revealing subplots are wasted -- Darryl's loveless relationship with Aldo's sister, Aldo's history of cowardice, and perfunctory efforts to make us care about the two detectives just because we know that one wants to retire without having killed anyone (and we immediately realize that won't happen!) while the other doubts whether he can care for an adopted child as he would his own flesh-and-blood. None of this is sufficiently developed to matter at all, and as a result just wastes our time. It isn't that Eyewitness is a particularly bad movie, but rather that it had the potential to be really good one and fell (very) short.

Eighties Club rating: **