Paramount Studios presents
Back to the Beach (1987)
"And who says you can't go home again?"- Annette (Annette Funicello)
Stars: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Lori Loughlin, Connie Stevens, Tommy Hinkley, Demian Slade, Joe Holland, Joe Holland
Other Stars: Ed "Kookie" Byrnes, Bob Denver, Don Adams, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers, Pee Wee Herman, Alan Hale, Jr., Dick Dale, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Rodney Bingenheimer
Director: Lyndall Hobbs
MPAA Rating: PG for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:32m:23s
Release Date: 2004-06-01
DVD ReviewPicture yourself at a Paramount Pictures pitch meeting, circa 1986. MTV is at an arguable peak, hair bands are sprouting, Michael Jackson's nose is two-thirds intact and Madonna lords supreme over the Top 40 radio airplay crowd. Can you visualize the reactions of the suits behind the desk when presented with a proposal for a big screen reunion of the king and queen of the Beach Party flicks? Studio Executive: "You wanna spend money by putting those Polaroid spokespeople in a movie?"
Now, the imaginary quote noted above didn't really occur, but it oh, so likely crystallized the mentality of your typical double-breasted attired bigwig (and we're talking Frankie and Annette, not James and Mariette, you idiot!) But as I put my movie business cap back on, I can somewhat side with Mr. Polyester who now has to consider a big-budget movie with two leads with very little name recognition amongst the highly coveted teen demographic, save for a casual mention from their parents while waxing nostalgic about the drive-in pictures of their youth.
That same predicament certainly must have crossed the minds of the writers while developing this project, when suddenly they must have fathomed, "That's it!" Not unlike parents in real life, why change anything about this beachcombing coupling? Save for Frankie's conservatism, let's keep these kids close to their roots, stiff hairdos and all, while their offspring and the rest of the world moves forward. And that's exactly the scenario we encounter as Back to the Beach begins.
Our favorite sun-and-sand warbler, Frankie (Avalon), has traded in his trunks and surfboard for sharkskin suits in recent years as one of the hottest car salesmen in Ohio. Meanwhile, loving wife Annette (Funicello) is content to play homemaker, always experimenting with recipes for a rather familiar-looking brand of peanut butter (just a couple of scoops shy of Stepford territory, Ms. Mousketeer). But behind her hubby's showroom swagger lies a seriously burned-out grownup that's forgotten how to be a kid.
With a little nudging from the former princess of pineapples and pajama parties, it's off to the Aloha state with punk-loving' son Bobby (Demian Slade) along for the flight. During a layover on the West Coast, Annette talks Frankie into paying a visit to daughter Lori's (Lori Loughlin) beachfront pad, which just happens to be within walking distance of their old movie set, er, stomping grounds. But the family reunion turns nasty when Pop finds out his beloved little girl (they're always "little" no matter old they are) is living in sin with local surfer dude Michael (Tommy Hinkley). Frankie wants to hop aboard the next flight out of town, but a chance reunion with old flame Connie (Connie Stevens) changes his tune. Before you can utter the syllables "flash" and "back", Annette snaps out of her decade-plus single emotion slumber as that classic 'grab the next single guy' jealous streak kicks in.
Ah, now all that's missing are an American International Pictures logo and Eric Von Zipper (rest in peace, Harvey Lembeck).
Thanks to its '80s sheen and appealingly nostalgic nods to its leads cinematic pasts, Back to the Beach aches not only for rediscovery, but for a place of honor in the cult movie hall of fame. Naturally those of us who gravitated to those endearingly silly Beach Party party movies via afternoon matinees and late-late shows on television will take to this in a heartbeat, but those unfamiliar with the series' past will find themselves attracted by latter day nostalgia induced by appearances from Full House's Loughlin, guitar great Stevie Ray Vaughn (rocking it up with fellow six-string legend Dick Dale) and the ever wacky Pee-Wee Herman whose surrealistic, impromptu rendition of The Trashmen's early '60s garage band rave-up Surfin' Bird is a major high point. Speaking of musical Beach peaks, if someone had told me that an Annette Funicello production number set to ska music would be one of the coolest things I've ever seen in the history of cinema song and dance (choreographed by Kid Creole and the Coconuts alumnus Lori Eastside), I'd said they were nuts.
Oh, and as our late night television pal David Letterman used to say back in the NBC days, "If that's not enough...and by gosh, don't you think it oughta' be?" there's an abundance of well-integrated cameos from the likes of 77 Sunset Strip's Ed "Kookie" Byrnes (but no scene with co-star Connie Stevens? C'mon!), the brothers Cleaver themselves (Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers), the always funny Don Adams of Get Smart fame and everybody's "little buddy," Bob Denver, as a bartender who can't help but pour personal tidbits of a life-altering shipwreck along with those island drinkies (where's the Skipper and his cap when you need him?)
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Full of rich colors from Annette's polka-dot dresses to the nifty California exteriors, this is a pretty good looking remaster, but this single layer disc falls a little short of greatness due to a few spots where enhancement gremlins surface. Brief instances of inconsistent black levels are prominent, but the latter is more due to technical limitations during the filming itself.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
|English (and English Dolby Surround)||yes|
Audio Transfer Review: Lovers of this film will be encouraged that the original Dolby Surround (aka Ultra-Stereo) mix from its theatrical run is preserved, but the 5.1 tweaked-up model is actually preferable. Bringing out more of the ambience without being gimmicky, it adds punchy presence to both musical numbers and surf sequences. Front soundstage ambience is also impressive on this track as is the crisp dialogue track that manages to hold its own even during the most active moments; low end isn't overwhelming but efficient enough.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: It's a shame I can't temporarily change our grading system for this review, because if I could, I'd slap a wipeout on the supplemental section. Yeah, I know it would have been asking a lot for a commentary from the Big Kahuna himself (Frankie), but in all likelihood he would have deferred without the availability of his beloved and unfortunately ailing co-star. Still, anyone from director Lyndall Hobbs to the frontline support players (Loughlin, etc.) would have been more than adequate pinch-hitters. Somewhere in the vaults lies a goldmine of goodies from this film from bloopers to deleted scenes (speaking of which, I'd kill for a complete version of the Dick Dale/Stevie Ray six-string summit meeting on the classic surf instrumental Pipeline, which alas, remains sadly truncated).
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsA fun meshing of 1980s teen flick sheen and vintage beach party movies from two decades earlier, Back to the Beach is easily recommended to fans of both genres as well as newcomers who will be captivated by the Fred and Ginger of the baby boomer set, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.
Jeff Rosado 2004-06-09