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TAPEHEADS(director/writer: Bill Fishman; screenwriters: Peter McCarthy/story by Peter McCarthy/Jim Herzfeld/Ryan Rowe; cinematographer: Bojan Bazeli; editor: Mondo Jenkins; music: Fishbone; cast: John Cusack (Ivan Alexeev), Tim Robbins (Josh Tager), Katy Boyer (Belinda Mart), Mary Crosby (Samantha Gregory), Clu Gulager (Norman Mart), Doug McClure (Sid Tager), Connie Stevens (June Tager), Lyle Alzado (Thor Alexeev), Jessica Walter (Kay Mart), Susan Tyrell (Nikki Morton), Junior Walker (Lester Diamond), Sam Moore (Billy Diamond), Don Cornelius (Mo Fuzz, Record Producer), King Cotton (Roscoe), Weird Al Yankovic (Himself); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Peter McCarthy; Avenue Pictures; 1988)
“It’s the kind of harmless breezy film that’s easy to take on late night cable TV when you don’t feel like using your noodle.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Bill Fishman (“Car 54, Where Are You?”) cowrites and directs this lightweight youth orientated anti-establishment film. Peter McCarthy and Fishman keep the script filled with heavy-handed juvenile gags to the point it becomes tiresome and silly. It’s a film in love with the pop culture scene of the 1980s. Though more on the agreeable side than not, the quirky comedy hardly made me laugh. It tries to be too clever and clearly aspires to be a cult film. It’s the kind of harmless breezy film that’s easy to take on late night cable TV when you don’t feel like using your noodle. It seems to be too much in love with itself and to enamored of MTV for my taste.

The insecure techie nerd with possessive parents, Josh Tager (Tim Robbins), and the fast-talking obnoxious business-minded hustler, the mustachioed Ivan Alexeev (John Cusack), are a pair of twentysomething slackers who work as security guards and are friends since childhood. They are clearly not living up to expectations, as their high school yearbook touted them as “most likely to succeed.”

By horsing around on the job with the closed circuit television, they are fired. At first they are depressed by the prospects of unemployment, but they soon find a new career as music promo auteurs and become wealthy celebrities. Success comes to the boys after shooting the final video for a heavy-metal band killed by a crashing satellite.

The film’s only gag that made me laugh, was a rap commercial created by the boys (through their company of Video Aces) for a white fried-chicken magnate (King Cotton).

There’s a lame smutty sub-plot about a sleazy political presidential candidate (Clu Gulager) losing a porno tape he was in and fending off a blackmailer, an ageing black hip soul duo called The Swanky Modes (Junior Walker and Sam Moore) making a comeback, and the dummy boys as artistic and commercially successful entrepreneurs. There’s worthless jokes about Menudo and not too exciting cameos by the likes of ex-football player Lyle Alzado and comedian “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Robbins wrote the song “Repave America,” which was also used in the film he starred in entitled Bob Roberts.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”