Back to the Beach (1987)
Directed by Lyndall Hobbs
Cast: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Lori Loughlin, Demian Slade, Tommy Hinckley, Connie Stevens, David Bowie, Don Adams, Bob Denver, Pee Wee Herman, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers, Alan Hale, Edd Byrnes, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones.
1987 92 minutes
Rated: (for mild profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, October 14, 1998.
If you've heard of Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, and their old "beach party" movies from the 1960's, such as 65's "Beach Blanket Bingo," then you know the definition of the word corny. Those beach films may have been kinda fun and harmless, but they were also undeniably dumb. Then in 1987, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello returned to their "beach party" movies, and made the best film they could have possibly done.
"Back to the Beach" stars Avalon and Funicello, playing their screen images, as a married couple living in Ohio. Avalon seems to have lost his spontaneity and is now an uptight car dealer, while Funicello is a spunky housewife who has an obsession with peanut butter. Together, they have two kids, a daughter, Cindi (Lori Loughlin) in her early twenties living in Malibu, and a teenage son named Bobby (Demian Slade) who dresses like a punk. At the start of the film, they realize that they desperately need a vacation, so while on their way to Hawaii, they stop over in Malibu to see Cindi, not knowing that her fiance (Tommy Hinckley) is living with her on a pier at the beach. After they get there, Annette and Frankie get in a fight when he meets up with an old pal from the beach, Connie Stevens, and appears to be having more fun with her. Figuring into the story are various musical numbers, a surfing contest, and, yes, beach parties.
By hearing the premise, "Back to the Beach" may sound exactly like Funicello's and Avalon's old movies, but it is not at all. "Back to the Beach," in fact, is one of the most entertaining comedy musicals I have ever seen, and is one of those movies that can be watched over and over (and I've seen it many times, to be sure).
One of the biggest surprises of the film is that the movie is a little bit more edgy than expected. Funicello and Avalon are good sports, and actually satirize their images to humorous effect. Funicello, especially, is so purely good and sweet that she is absolutely entertaining to watch. Stealing the opening scenes of the film is Demian Slade, who is hilarious as their punk son. Remarking about his parent's dim-witted conversations, he observes, "It's like a conversation at the Kissinger's."
The music in "Back to the Beach" is perhaps the main star of the picture, and every song is memorable and fun to listen to. The musical numbers are also well choreographed and they give off a lot of spark and joy.
"Back to the Beach" is, by no means, a deep and thought-provoking motion picture. It knows that it is only a "beach" movie, and it makes the most of it by adding a winning, lightweight screenplay, charming performances by the whole cast, a delightful array of cameos (ranging from Barbara Billingsley to David Bowie to Pee Wee Herman), and some great music. And when you're dealing with Frankie and Annette, what more could you ask for?
©1998 by Dustin Putman