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It has come to my attention that one of the fine underappreciated gems of the 1980's teen sex comedy genre has reached its 20th anniversary year. That's right, ZAPPED!, the movie that helped establish Scott Baio and Willie Aames as something more than a pair of TV series teens has reached a milestone. They say that things get better with age. Like a fine wine or cheese, ZAPPED! is obviously in that boat.
For those of you not familiar with the fine work of the two main stars of this film, I'll give it to you. Scott Baio and Willie Aames were two actors who got their breaks on television shows of the late 1970's, Baio starring as Chachi on "Happy Days" and Aames starring as Tommy on "Eight is Enough". They quickly became friends, and worked on this film as well as the 1980's sitcom "Charles in Charge". Baio also had starring turns in films such as BUGSY MALONE, SKATETOWN U.S.A., and FOXES, while Aames mainly stuck to TV, save for a the lead in the BLUE LAGOON wannabe PARADISE, along with Phoebe Cates. ZAPPED!, however, is the crowning role for both of them on the silver screen.
ZAPPED! is the story of Baio's Barney Springboro, high school ubergeek and social misfit, who is working with lab mice for what we assume is a school project. Actually, there's no telling why he's actually working with these mice. I mean, what could he possibly learn by getting mice drunk on bourbon and making them scuba dive? Or why he's the only person in the entire school who has access to this way-too-high-tech-for-high-school science lab. Or why they allow him to experiment using Jack Daniels in a public High School. Or how he manages to grow an assload of pot plants without anyone in the school knowing. So he's working on some magical serum trying to superpower these mice, and in the process, soup up some superpowered weed as well. Turns out Barney has whipped up some sort of telekinetic powers on these mice. And upon taking some of the serum himself, something any self-respecting science student would do without testing it on something larger than a friggin' lab rat for more than a week or two, winds up gaining access to some of these powers as well.
Barney's best friend is Payton Nichols, played by Aames. He's the complete opposite of Barney -- outgoing, dumb, and popular with the ladies. He's after the local high school honey, Jane, who of course is taken with the captain of the football team. Barney's special new powers put a light in Peyton's eyes. It's not enough that Barney just use his powers to pretend he's the commander of the Starship Enterprise. Peyton wants him to use the powers for such underhanded activities as fixing baseball games, cheating at carnival games, making the teacup ride spin to the point of nausea, and beating the casino. Oh, and of course, disrobing all the young ladies they can find. Unfortunately though, Barney's conscience gets the better of him through the aid of Bernadette, the female end of the nerd spectrum at this particular school. She and Barney are entrenched in a blood feud at the beginning of the film, but through their partnership in the name of science, they quickly develop a screen romance that Bogey and Bacall would envy. This culminates when they again play on the biggest myth that frequents teen movie lore -- that girls look better WITHOUT their glasses.
Of course, the greatest character in this film, and one in the running for greatest character of all time, is baseball coach Dexter, played with panache by the late great Scatman Crothers. In one of the greatest scenes in film history, Dexter benefits from the power of this super doja that Barney has been raising. One of the teachers at the school, obviously the rocket science instructor, finds Barney's stash and decides to dispose of it by incenerating it IN THE SCHOOL'S BOILER. Dexter gets a good lungful, and winds up in a hallucination that features he and Albert Einstein bike riding through a meadow while being chased by Dexter's crazy wife, who won't let him eat salami, on a horse-drawn chariot. I wish I could say I made this up, but I'm not nearly that creative.
The action carries on until the finale, which, even in the world of teen-sex comedies, is almost to the point of overkill. As one last hurrah with his special powers, and as a pretty blatant ripoff of CARRIE, Barney manages to disrobe the ENTIRE STUDENT BODY at the prom. It's boobies galore, in a scene that I seem to recall having increased the size of my eyes twofold when I first saw this thing on cable around 8 or 9 years old. It's brilliant. It puts anything they did in PORKY'S or REVENGE OF THE NERDS to shame. And it's all due to the power of Scott Baio.
Unfortunately, this movie is almost always seen on basic cable, which means that the skin is no longer in view and a lot of the drug references are snipped. The only solution is to rent the video, if you can find it. Unfortunately, this fine piece of celluloid has yet to be transferred to a digital format, so you DVDphiles will have to wait. Maybe for the 25th anniversary. Who knows?
Just don't see ZAPPED AGAIN!, the 1990 sequel. No Baio and no Aames means no fun.
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