Friday, 20 May 2011

Vibes (1988)

A looseleaf Da Vinci Code for the 'godless teen huckster' set...

Vibes (1988, Ken Kwapis)

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Cyndi Lauper, Peter Falk, Julian Sands, Jennifer Balgobin, Van Dyke Parks, Googy Gress

Tagline: ‘Put your hands on our hands and feel the…VIBES.’ Eh?

Trailers: Pippi Longstocking, Things Change, A Whale of a Time

Cherrypick: Will someone please settle this: In a Rolls Royce Corniche, the mini-bar opens from the left to the right, does it not?”

Loosely based on Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s ‘Elective Affinities’, ‘88’s Vibes introduces us to protagonist Nick Deezy (Goldblum), a salon Bolshevist and heteroclite whose paranoiac world of Sartre, pornography and TiVo inevitably leads him to the dusty doors of the New York Institute for the Paranormal. From a young age, it transpires, Nick has been able to call up the exact history of any object just by holding it in his hands: he grabs a six-inch bread knife and realises that some broad used it to plug her husband eight times in the back; he touches his ex-wife’s panties and sees – uh oh! – the captain of the local ice hockey team, an upturned milk crate and a selection of root vegetables. 
'Is it the four of spades..?'
While undergoing a variety of really rather alarming psychic tests at the institute Goldblum hooks up with scarlet woman and serial non-actor Cyndi Lauper - an ashcan debutante born into the arms of a virus-breeding harlot on the stoop of a Coney Island brownstone and swaddled in a quilt made from ‘Hooters’ fliers. After “falling from a ladder and hitting her head at the age of 12” (read: being thrown from a moving vehicle by the guy who played Eddie Munster after she refused to perform an act known in certain circles as ‘The Riddle of the Tombs’) she retains the company of an invisible friend called Kiki who is able to advise her on future events - think It's a Wonderful Life meets Breakin’.

Her predictive pal would seem to be sleeping one off when one morning our holy fool heads into the kitchen for her regular mid-morning purple-tin pick-me-up to discover her errant father, Peter Falk (in his first comedy outing since Wings of Desire) dozing in her fridge. Endlessly repeating his only line in the film, “I wanna be somebuddy… Somebuddy wid money!” he attempts to make up for fifteen years of absentee fatherhood by revealing to her not only a nifty trick for extracting milk from a coconut, but the mysterious treasure map tattooed across the back of his neck… Without so much as a lazily staged montage, Cyndi, her hastily forgiven dad and a ‘sedated’ G-Blum are in South America searching for “a [possibly allegorical] room of gold”.
'You sure it wasn't the four of spades...?'
What follows is an epic, if ramshackle, journey of Wagnerian foreboding and Quixotic tomfoolery into the foothills of the Ecuadorian rainforest (militarized Louisiana swampland) upon which our telekenetic triumvirate manage to cock up their already stultifyingly bad dialogue and engage in some PG-rated ass-grabbing and campfire coquetry. Indeed, it is via a scene of tent-based sexual adventurism that we discover Goldblum to be the ‘Ring’ of the piece, while Lauper will, quite literally, serve as his ‘Cycle’.

Misguided by the ‘leg up’ directorial style of Follow That Bird! lenser Ken Kwapis, Goldenrod spends the entire film with the vacant, listless expression redolent of a man who knows he’s only got an hour left on set before he can get back to the driving range (cf. Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot). This leaves Lauper - resplendent throughout in an electric-pink body sock and sporting a Brooklyn accent that could strip the gold from a gypsy's teeth - to supply the film with its intellectual and philosophical milieu. She consequently manages to outshine the distracted Goldie ten to one; the Brutus to his Caesar; ‘Pet Sounds’ to his ‘Endless Summer’; 'McCloud' to his 'McMillan & Wife'
'Y'know, it could have been the four of spades...'
The script insists that they must find the azure (what happened to gold?) temples of Atlantis or somesuch, but even at this early stage it’s already too late – Jeff’s propped against the location bar with a snowball and a post-op Playboy bunny, going though his contract with a fine-tooth comb for a loophole that might save him from promoting a film whose title sounds like a particularly nasty STD. Falk has long since flown back to Hollywood, citing a walk-on part in 'Dougie Howser MD' as “Prior Commitments” and Lauper is refusing to come out of her cabana until the crew stop referring to her as ‘Mrs. Hitler’.

Given such escalating off-camera chaos it is not perhaps surprising that it is on the home straight that Vibes buckles under its own ponderousness, with the psychic aptitude of our bickering leads all but forgotten in favour of endless Jewish Christmas-cracker one-liners and Falk written out of the plot with none too subtle malice (he dies whilst being operated on by an unlicensed pre-teen surgeon).

A jaded Goldblum used the film’s premier – held on the forecourt of ‘Hernandez Tile and Paint’, San Berdoo - to announce that he was retiring from motion pictures to concentrate on his one-man theatrical show entitled ‘Robot on the Run’. 

It would be coolly received.
'This isn't the four of spades!'

1 comment:

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