Wednesday, December 4, 2013

#1,206. Zapped! (1982)

Directed By: Robert J. Rosenthal

Starring: Scott Baio, Willie Aames, Robert Mandan

Tag line: "They're getting a little behind in their classwork . . ."

Trivia: The spaceship model flying around Barney Springboro's bedroom and through the fish tank was a modified Millennium Falcon from Star Wars with USS Enterprise nacelles from Star Trek

Zapped! brings back a lot of memories. One in particular occurred when I was 13 (I’d recorded the movie off of cable, despite the fact I wasn’t allowed to do so). It was a summer afternoon and both my parents were at work, so my brother and I invited a bunch of our friends over to watch Zapped!  Late in the film, there’s a scene where Peyton Nichols (the character played by Willie Aames) is sharing a romantic evening with head cheerleader Jane Mitchell (the outrageously hot Heather Thomas), and just when he switches the lights off to make his move, the flash from a 35mm camera (which he’d put on a timer) goes off, taking a picture without Jane realizing what happened. At the prom a few scenes later, Peyton shares this picture with Robert (Greg Bradford), Jane’s college boyfriend, who flips his lid because she’s topless in it!

After seeing this photo, our curiosity got the better of us, so when the movie was over my friends and I rewound the tape to the scene where that picture was first taken. For what seemed like an hour, we tried to pause it at the exact moment the flash went off, hoping to see if Heather Thomas was, indeed, topless in that scene. As you can imagine, it was a frustrating experience (I would hit the pause button either too soon or too late, always missing that instantaneous flash, and because we’d only had a VCR for about a month at this point, none of us knew there was a "Frame Advance" button on the remote). After about 30 attempts, I finally got the tape to stop at the right spot (in a nutshell, the payoff wasn’t worth the effort).

A teen comedy with a dash of sci-fi mixed in, Zapped! stars Scott Baio as Barry Springboro, a science nerd and one of the brightest students at Emerson High. While conducting an experiment with some lab mice, Barry accidentally breaks a beaker containing some very volatile chemicals, causing an explosion that knocks him out cold for a few hours. When he wakes up, Barry is shocked to discover that he has telekinetic powers, and can move objects around the room at will. Class President Bernadette (Felice Schachter) and Barry’s best friend Peyton (Aames) are the only ones who know about Barry’s newfound abilities. Bernadette wants to study Barry to try and determine what caused this change, while Peyton sees it as an opportunity to make some fast cash. As for Barry, he has his hands full trying to deal with his neurotic parents (Roger Bowen and Mews Small), and has no idea which girl he’s going to ask to the prom.

Zapped! was something of an oddity back in the day because it featured mostly actors who, at the time, were well-known TV stars; For years, Baio had played Fonzie’s cousin Chachi on the long-running sitcom Happy Days, while Willie Ames was one of Dick Van Patten’s kids on Eight is Enough (a couple years after Zapped!, the two would team up on another popular series, Charles in Charge). Even Heather Thomas was a regular on Lee Majors’ The Fall Guy, and to see these television personalities in a raunchy sex comedy was a little unusual. As for the film itself, it’s often juvenile (more than a few scenes deal with Barry using his powers to pull girl's tops off) and some of the jokes fall flat on their face (there’s a Star Trek-themed dream sequence that’s downright painful to sit through), but since it’s a childhood favorite of mine, I tend to overlook its weaknesses. Zapped! is certainly not a good movie, but it is a fun one.

And with plenty of sweaters popping open and skirts flying up, it offered my friends and I the kind of entertainment we were looking for on that beautiful summer’s day all those years ago.

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