Do you like bad movies involving (sort of) dancers? Would you enjoy a movie that makes Flashdance look pretty darn good? This is that flick. Don’t be thrown off by the box art, which features our heroine splayed out on all four limbs with ample dÃ©colletage in evidence. Said graphic, along with the film’s title, seems to promise one of those ubiquitous ’80s ‘sex comedies.’ You know, Hard Bodies, My Tutor, Joystick, etc. Instead, as indicated, Heavenly Bodies is a Flashdance wannabe. Admittedly, one sporting a plot concept that makes that earlier film look like a gritty, slice-of-life documentary.
We open with a montage that recalls the working-class comedy Nine to Five. As our heroine, Samantha, types away in a manner meant to suggest the rigors of 18th century French prison life, we are subjected to a generically forgettable ’80s style pop tune. (Technology changes so fast. I could only gawk at the close-ups of spinning typewriter elements, those balls that replaced keys in IBM Selectric-style typewriters.) Next she and her two friends â€“ one black, one white, about the only way to tell them apart — are walking down a rainy urban street, rather reminiscent of the inner city locales of, hey, Flashdance. Of especial notice is the trio’s bad ’80s attire. Particularly that of Sam, who’s clothed and hairstyled here to overtly resemble Jennifer Beals of, hey, Flashdance. While the ’80s had nothing on the ’70s in terms of hideous fashions, it did have its moments. You know, guys wearing their collars up, unisex feathered haircuts, jacket sleeves pulled high on the forearm, leg warmers (just like, hey, Flashdance). All will be on display throughout this movie.
Sam and her two buddies, either of whom could be cut out of the movie without affecting things much, enter a run-down warehouse. A close-up of a sign lets us know that it’s available to rent. In case, you know, we mistakenly assumed that Sam just likes to tour decrepit warehouses. Inside, the unscathed and well-buffed hardwood floors have been strategically festooned with garbage. The walls sport cobwebs that appear to have come out of a spray can. Thus do set dressers create their magic. A quick scan of the venue and our heroines agree – they’ll take it.
Next, in an ‘amusing’ scene we see Sam stealing photocopies from her employer. This is accompanied by another bad pop tune, the second in roughly four minutes. Said copies she secretes in her skirt waistband, under her sweater. When a boss-type guy walks in, the papers fall – in a rather artificial manner – to the floor. Hilarity doesn’t exactly ensue, although we do in some abstract fashion understand how this is supposed to be funny. Then our heroines are out on the street, distributing what appear to be thousands of these flyers. (I know we all do minor pilfering at work. Still, should you really filch thousands of photocopies to promote a business that will soon have you leaving the very firm you’re stealing from?) Sam is standing by a movie theater, directly in front of poster for, hey, Flashdance. Which certainly merits an award for chutzpah, if nothing else. Apparently the filmmakers wish us to see this movie as a ‘homage’ to Flashdance, rather than a rip-off. If soâ€¦fat chance, says I.
Sam and Co., are soon inaugurating the warehouse as a new Aerobics club, named (duh) Heavenly Bodies. That’s right, an aerobics club. A place where you can go and do aerobics. This is the obvious flaw of films rushed out to exploit a trend – six months later they’re ridiculously out of date. Astoundingly, we are spared a ‘cleaning-up’ montage at the warehouse. However, we do get a ‘wacky’ scene with the girls flicking their paint brushes at each other. Ah, good times. They are then shown handing out flyers in front of “Jack Pearson’s Sporting Life,” a local health club. This will prove to be an important, if boring, plot point. (Here we learn that our director is ‘Lawrence Dane,’ who, in case you were wondering, is in no way ‘great.’)
So the girls quit their typing jobs and we get a weird montage of them donning their leotards and legwarmers. It plays like one of ’80s action flicks wherein the hero ritualistically prepares for battle by attaching a series of weapons to his commando vest. This is accompanied by our third bad song in under seven minutes, one that begins with a guitar riff vaguely reminiscent of Golden Earrings’ “Twilight Zone.” Those hoping for some ’80s-style T&A should beware, though. Although ‘Playboy Productions’ supposedly co-produced this film, it sports very little nudity. There are numerous shots of women in tight leotards, but that’s about it. Just one less reason to rent the movie.
We now view interminable minutes of Sam leading various fit, young and attractive women in aerobics classes. Wouldn’t want to gross out the audience with any leotard-clad geezers or chubboids, I guess. Meanwhile, the passage of time is indicated by the occasional leotard change. Oddly, none of the women watch and copy Sam’s moves as she leads them. Instead they all move with her, as if choreographed. Nor does anyone get particularly, or at all, sweaty. This segues into a bit where a local TV newswoman is doing a piece on the club. (Talk about a slow news day!) She describes the venue, which currently appears to have a clientele of around a dozen people, as “this fabulous new club” and a “real phenomenon.” We are also informed that it remains a “small club,” but one pulling in “members at an incredible rate.” Oh, one of those. Here Sam reveals her ambition to buy the warehouse where the club is located. This, for those who have never seen a movie before, is another plot point.
Next we see Sam lounging in bed. “I’m tired, darling” she breathily purrs. “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” But, ha!, she’s not talking to an enthusiastic lover, but rather to her newly revealed Obnoxiously Cute Little Kid (OCLK) Joel. It should be noted that Sam seems a tad young to have a kid Joel’s age. Joel is reading to her from Tom Sawyer, and — Comedy Ahoy! — asks Mom what o-r-g-i-e-s spells. (Here the kid breaks character and forgetfully looks into the camera.) She tells him, and he precociously asks what it means. I believe this is supposed to be amusing in some fashion, but frankly that’s just an educated guess. Being a New-Agey sort of Mom, she reminds him of when she explained how babies are made. It’s like that, she continues, “only without the love that makes it so nice.” Wow. Just like this movie is made without the things that make them so nice. A good script, well-written characters, an original plot… In any case, the scene charmingly ends with Sam snuggling her young son while lamenting the general lack of sex in her life. This kid has ‘Norman Bates’ written all over him.
Sam is next shown negotiating with an executive type to teach classes to his employees. “They’re out of shape,” he sneers. “They’re as graceful as orangutans!” He proves to be impressed with Sam’s spunk, and gives her a week-long (!) trial period. Cut to Sam leading a class as her friends, if not the audience, watch in amusement. Here’s the punch line: The employees turn out to be members of a (fake) professional football team. See, it’s funny. Here are these big, muscular guys, and they’re doing aerobics. And, needless to say, groaning with the effort. You can see how that’s funny, right? Right? Actually, what’s funnier is that a GM would believe that a single week of aerobics would have a significant effect on his players’ physical conditions. Or that a hired trainer wouldn’t go to the stadium to lead classes, but would get an entire team of high-priced athletes to drive over to her club for their lessons.
We now meet Steve, Sam’s obvious romantic foil. The paint-by-numbers script requires a ‘meet cute,’ of course. So Steve is introduced in drag, apparently making sport of Our Heroine. Or aerobics. Or something. Anyway, he pops up wearing a barrette and some fake boobs. This inspires much mirth amongst his teammates, who appear rather easy to please in the humor department. Sam, however, proves that she can dish it out, too, and in big steaming piles of similarly generous proportions. After she manhandles his phony boobies, he capitulates and joins the others in their regimen.
Sam quickly gains mastery over the skeptical athletes by defeating them all in, uh, something. It’s sort of like a push-up, but instead of going straight up and down, you sort of glide your torso forward and down and then back up again in an arc. This provides a good, if somewhat cheesy, opportunity to watch Sam’s shapely rear as she maneuvers around. As we open this bit, we see that most of the team has already quit in exhaustion. Panting, they watch Sam as she challenges the last two players, one of whom (surprise) is Steve. Soon the second fellow has dropped out. Then Steve collapses, leaving Sam the winner.
The problem is that it’s difficult to buy a hundred and ten pound woman defeating a team of male athletes in a contest that primarily tests upper-body strength. Another problem is that Sam is clearly cheating, although no one mentions it. (This despite the fact that we only see her doing three or four reps on camera.) While the guys glide forward, down and back up while holding their bodies off the floor, Sam is clearly shown resting her pelvis on the ground before completing each circuit. Nor is it helping that she’s supposedly creamed everyone by the count of fifty-seven. Even stipulating that these are harder than regulation push-ups (which I don’t), I’d have to assume that all of these guys could do more than that.
Now, before anyone has a conniption, let me state that if she had beaten them in a purely aerobic workout, I’d have bought it. That, after all, requires a type of endurance that would actually have the sheer bulk of the players working against them. But outdoing them in any kind of push-up or similar exercise seems improbable, to say the least. Especially given that all we ever seen Sam do is aerobic dancing, hardly an activity to promote exceptional upper-body strength.
OK, get ready for some further, ahem, ‘comic relief.’ Sam is walking down the street. Steve, smitten with his willowy instructor, comes driving alongside her in his Jeep. Since he is talking to her and rather obviously not watching where he’s going, we’re unsurprised when he drives (giggle) into another car. This is so obviously telegraphed that I assumed I’d see Western Union mentioned in the closing credits. Despite having been quite evidently at fault, Steve jumps out of his vehicle, swearing loudly at the other driver. This fellow exits his car and proves to beâ€¦a priest! Guffaw!! Get it? Steve’s been yelling and swearing and all, and at a priest. You can see how that would be humorous, right? [Cue comical ‘loud’ silence accompanied with cricket noises.]
Back to another class. This time there are more students, or whatever, including some men. Here again they move as if in a (poorly) choreographed dance routine, all together and without looking at their instructor. The number ends and Sam closes out the session, apparently fearing that if they continue someone might begin to sweat and ruin the look of their pristine leotards.
A guy in an ape suit enters the club. He growls and then removes his mask. This reveals a fellow bedecked in comical nerdy glasses and bow tie, thus capturing that quintessential ‘Poindexter’ look. He reads Sam a purportedly humorous-yet-romantic poem. Bad Movie scholars will no doubt debate for centuries to come as to which trait the poem accomplishes less successfully. (Said performance, naturally, has been instigated by Steve.) We can tell it’s supposed to be funny largely because everyone laughs at its ‘wit,’ cueing us that this is what the Jabootuite might refer to as an Informed Joke. My favorite couplet unsuccessfully attempts to rhyme ‘manners’ with ‘tatters,’ but the entire text is available below in IMMORTAL DIALOG. Actually, the funniest bit is that everyone cheers Steve’s moronic attempt at poesy as if it were some grand romantic triumph. Perhaps they’re parishioners in our sister realm of Jabootu’s Bad Verse Dimension.
On to Sam’s next session with the football team. They are now more proficient at their aerobics, so we can tell that Sam’s techniques are successful. Meanwhile, the opposing players for their next game are presumably practicing tackling drills and conducting strength training and will no doubt destroy them when they meet upon the gridiron. Here we are treated to a hilarious — well, you know — turnabout. As Sam looks on with a smug expression, a not really all that attractive woman enters and hands Steve a boom box playing stripper music. This despite the fact that the extent of her ‘stripping’ involves removing a long coat to reveal a leather outfit about as skimpy as the leotards we’ve seen throughout the movie. Despite the ‘PG’ nature of the antics, bystanding women, including one who looks exactly like Joyce DeWitt from her Three’s Company days, look on in exaggeratedly scandalized delight. Eventually, the act culminates in some extremely low-grade and uninteresting breast baring. The stripper then tells Steve ‘no’ for Sam. How amusing.
Cut to Sam in her apartment with her kid and her black friend (if they’ve given her name yet, I haven’t caught it). The doorbell rings. After answering it, Sam returns with a note and a bunch of helium balloons. The note tells Sam that if she’ll reconsider Steve’s request for a date, she should release the balloons from her balcony. Not exactly “knock three times on the ceiling if you want me,” but there you go. Cut to Steve waiting outside in his Jeep. He appears to watch for all of about twenty seconds before driving off. Apparently ‘patience’ isn’t high on his list of virtues. Halfway through an intersection he halts and jumps out of his car. (Somebody should really revoke this guy’s license.) A cut reveals that *yawn* the balloons have been released.
By now one of the film’s more serious flaws has become apparent. Which is that events have been, if anything, moving too quickly. This is ironic, because a more typical Bad Movie flaw is an excruciatingly slow pace. Here, however, we are about twenty minutes into the picture. In quick order, our heroines have quit their hated jobs, found the site for their club, opened it, made a purportedly huge success of it, and gotten a romantic interest for Sam. This means that when the film’s central plot device makes its appearance, they will have way too much running time left to deal with it. They would have been better advised to even out the pacing.
Glimpses of said plot appear when Sam is informed of auditions being held for a local aerobics TV show. “Station WMSH wants to get involved in the workout craze that’s sweeping North America,” we’re told. (As all Bad Movie fans know, the craze sweeping South America at the time was the Lambada. But that’s a subject for another time.) Meanwhile, we can only assume that this new Aerobics show will be replacing WMSH’s This Week in Break Dancing before being followed in due course by The Beer Can Collector’s Journal.
We’re not quite ready to get going on that, though, so we waste time with some *ugh* character scenes. We see Sam getting ready for her big date. Told that Steve has arrived, Sam emerges in what I at first thought was her bathrobe. However, no one commented on it as such, and I eventually deduced that it was in fact her dress. In another comical bit (please, kill me), Sam learns that Steve intends to cook dinner rather than taking her out. Why, she spent all that time on her makeup and donned her bathrobe for nothing! Sam apparently decides to punish Steve for this, as they are next seen examining her photo album. This results in the film’s best moment, wherein we see a nice shot of a little girl (purportedly our heroine) next to a really, really cool and monstrously huge St. Bernard. This is my favorite type of dog, so others might not find this segment so engrossing. Still, it’s the closest thing the movie has to a Nut o’ Fun. Meanwhile, the movie’s most questionable moment occurs when she moves on to a picture of herself at seven years old and tells Steve “Wait until you see these legs!” The best part, I suppose, is that while Sam was seven, she clearly had the body of a five year old.
This goes on at excruciating length as we are told, as if anyone gives a rat’s ass, of Sam’s past. (At least they explain that Sam had her son at seventeen, making her apparent youth somewhat more plausible.) ‘Characterization’ accomplished, the two start exchanging steamy glances. Just in case we don’t get it, sax music kicks in, the universal cinematic indicator that love is in the air. However, since they don’t want Sam to look slutty, the consummation scene will occur later. We do get a lame piece of business, though. Steve leaves without kissing her, only to knock on the door in order to take care of this. He talks about how nervous he is, so I guess it’s *yawn* True Love.
I’ll spare you the scene where Sam’s two buddies demand the gory details. (OK, I won’t – see IMMORTAL DIALOG.) I should mention, though, that White Friend has a bit at the end where she’s supposed to throw a towel at Sam in mock disgust. However, the actress can’t get it out of her hand and fumbles around a bit before she manages to release it. Guess the ‘reshoot’ budget didn’t cover this.
Sam and Black Friend (BF) enter an office lobby that helpfully sports a sign noting “Work Out Audition Studio B.” Especially helpful is how it’s facing the camera so that the audience can read it, rather than facing the doorway where the applicants could read it. BF reminds Sam, and us, that this is audition is important. Good thing, too, because otherwise we’d have forgotten to care. They continue on and enter a white studio room. There a dozen or so generically attractive women in tights are attempting to pretend that there are significantly different skill levels where aerobics are concerned.
Finally, our ‘plot’ arrives. Jack Pearson, owner of the health club glimpsed earlier, enters the lobby with his squeeze Debbie. Accompanying them is *gasp* the director of the aerobics show. Debbie, needless to say, also wants to host the show. That’s right, boys and girls, the fix is in. The actor playing Pearson, by the way, has an interesting past. See below in AFTERTHOUGHTS. And so, to the returning strains â€“ a word I don’t use lightly — of the film’s opening song “Breakin’ out of Prison”, we are treated to various shots of tight bums and knockers jiggling around in Spandex. To our mild regret, however, none of them, in fact, manage to ‘break out of prison.’
Flunkies walk around and tap various, uh, participants on the shoulder to have them leave the floor. It would be reminiscent of the Charleston Contest in It’s a Wonderful Life, if it were at all possible to draw any comparison between these two films. Meanwhile, one especially amusing moment occurs when the director guy describes one of the dancers as “the chubby blond girl, front row.” Presumably, this is meant to show us that this fellow is, you know, a jerk. However, as all of the women are almost impossibly fit and lean, including the woman in question, the remark instead comes off as quite goofy. I can only assume the line was in the script before the part was cast and that no one thought to change it afterwards
The ‘audition’ goes on and on, apparently in the hope that some eye candy will make up for the lack of a coherent plot and other such niceties. In a rather patent example of an Informed Attributeâ„¢ the girls are winnowed down until it’s only Debbie and Sam left. (Duh.) This lets us know that they gyrated better than the other contestants. Which would otherwise impossible to perceive, despite the fact that the other ‘actresses’ were undoubtedly instructed to do their routines as awkwardly as possible so as to make our heroine and her antagonist look good.
The Director, per his agreement with Pearson, tries to guide the Producer’s attention to Debbie. However, the contest is so close that the Producer decides to check out the pre-audition interview tapes. First up is Debbie, who explains that she thinks that the hostess of this show should be “someone to look up to.” She also boasts that she “has a degree in Physical Fitness,” and, moreover, “graduated first in my class.” Man, Sam really has her work cut out for her! It’s at this point that I began to wonder why Pearson doesn’t just sponsor the show through his health club. Since Debbie is his head instructor (and no dirty jokes, you perverts!), he could basically just assign her the position.
Of course, the Producer can’t help but notice Sam’s amazing skills and whatever. “That other girlâ€¦she’s got something special,” she notes. In response, the Director is lamely forced to muse, “What do you know about her background? Is she going to come in every morning?” (Talk about grasping at straws!) Actually, you wouldn’t shoot such a show live every day. You’d do five or ten episodes at once and then strip them throughout the week. Of course, right after he asks that, Sam’s tape reveals how she took the long way to school because she loved exercise so much. Or something. Anyway, sounds like someone who’d “come in every morning,” eh? Meanwhile, I’m wondering when these interview tapes were done. Both Sam and Debbie are shown wearing the same leotards they auditioned in. But Sam was also clearly shown to start the audition immediately upon arriving. Perhaps, instead of being on tape, these are supposed to be ‘live’ statements. If so, it’s even lamer, since the women’s images are clearly freeze-framed between answers.
The Director keeps up the pressure on Debbie’s behalf, but the Producer refuses to be rushed on this vital decision. This, after all, is a show that could potentially be seen by tens, dozens, even hundreds of viewers every day. The competitors are informed that the decision will come later. Sam goes over to Debbie, trying to do the sportsman-like thing. Debbie, being the ‘bad’ one, naturally rebuffs her kind gesture. (Boo! Hiss!)
Back to (yet another) class at Heavenly Bodies. Sam is facing away from the group as Steve enters. Feeling the intensity of his gaze, or something, she turns around. Here a camera cut reveals Steve to be all glistening and sweaty. This is strange, as, by my count, he’s been ‘working out’ for all of twenty-two seconds. Meanwhile, no one else in the group, per usual, is even close to sweating, even though the class was already in progress when Steve arrived.
We begin to flash to a scene of Steve and Sam doing the deed. Like we care. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be following the exercise class, or is instead a flashback to something that already occurred. Not that it matters much. Anyway, we ‘erotically’ cut back and forth from the work out to the, uh, work out. This is about as uninteresting as you’d expect, especially given the lame ‘nudity but with arms blocking the naughty bits‘ choreography. In the class shots, meanwhile, the two exchange lusty glances while the camera closes in for some shots of Sam thrusting her pelvis into our figurative faces. This is all accompanied by a song entitled “You Bring Out the Beast in Me.” At this I started nodding in agreement, until I realized that they weren’t singing ‘You bring out the sleep in me.’
As if this isn’t enough — and it’s the kind of scene that gives the phrase ‘gratuitous sex’ a bad name — we next cut to an extended and quite horrific ‘Aren’t we happy?!‘ montage of Sam and Steve playing football with little Joel. To make this as painful as possible, this is accompanied by yet another bad pop tune. The most frightening moment of which occurs when the lyrics sing “Don’t let it end!”, and we momentarily fear we’re in one of those Twilight Zone-type situations where we’re dead and in hell but don’t know it. Ugh. Imagine watching Heavenly Bodies forever, instead of just feeling like you were.
Then (really, just kill me now) we cut back toâ€¦another aerobics class scene. Man, this flick is just a thrill a minute. I know I keep mentioning it, but why are all the workouts choreographed like dance scenes? Admittedly, really, really bad dance scenes, but still. We never see Sam, who still appears to be the only instructor in the place, actually teaching these, er, moves to the class. Instead, every time we cut to a session it resembles a very untalented community college production of Fame. In fact, no sooner am I thinking this then Sam shouts, “Let’s go Broadway!” and the male students are lifting her up and flipping her around like in some, well, really bad community college production of Fame. This particular number, much like pi, just goes on and on. Somebody must have decided that this was the place to pad out our generous 89 minute running time.
On to the next sceneâ€¦finally. KC (that’s the Black Friend’s name – I finally got it!) and White Friend enter the club and in one of the movie’s typically torturous ‘funny’ bits announce to everyone that Sam (duh) got the hostess gig on the aerobics show. Boy, that’s almost as exciting as when Michele got to be lead go-go dancer at the Haunted House club in Girl in Gold Boots. Almost. OK, so it’s not All About Eve, but it’s what we’ve got.
Cut to Debbie stalking through the Pearson Health Club to harangue Jack. This is probably a mistake, for as the camera follows her we see that this is a full-service fitness club, with weight equipment and all that good stuff. In other words, aerobics training is but a small part of what this particular facility offers. This will make later intimations over how the club’s being threatened by the success of Heavenly Bodies even sillier. Jack is in his office bench-pressing some weights. Debbie kicks his spotter out and begins her tirade. Then, when Jack inevitably has trouble with his weights (like two reps later), Debbie refuses to help until he promises to scope the situation out.
Cut to a party for Sam, featuring a congratulatory cake obviously not lettered by licensed bakery professionals. It features, sort of, an icing drawing of a TV with ‘SAM’ in big letters across the ‘screen.’ The attendees dance around while a Coke machine glares in the background, no doubt ensuring some product placement dollars for the filmmakers. Although one suspects from the Pepsi company, not Coca-Cola. KC mentions to Steve how great everything is going, indicating to the savvy viewer that now’s the time for things to go into the crapper. (Plot Dynamics 101.) Sam’s toasting their imminent buying of the Heavenly Bodies location pinpoints for us where the fly in the ointment is likely to appear.
Our Heroine is next seen arriving early to the deserted production quarters for her show. The area is weird, in that it’s a huge room that contains the small dais that Sam appears on in a far corner and is otherwise empty. I found it somewhat difficult to believe that a local TV station would be wasting valuable production space like this. Actually, we soon see why the room’s so large and empty – so that Sam can do a really bad dance number. Lucky us. This, in case I’ve failed to properly communicate it, proves to be dull in the extreme. Remember when Gene Kelly takes Debbie Reynolds to an empty soundstage in Singin’ in the Rain and a musical number ensues?
This isn’t like that.
By the way, when I said ‘really bad,’ I meant really bad. We begin with Sam on her little dais. She begins to awkwardly sway, like those snooty ladies in that old Three Stooges short who had ants dropped down the back of their dresses. She then doffs her hideous wrap (a garment I hesitate even to attempt to describe) to reveal â€“ what else â€“ her pair of tight leotards. Then she romps though the room, rather like Godzilla romps through Tokyo. ‘Highlights’ includes Sam dancing on and around the scattered equipment: A chair, a pole, a ladder on wheels, a camera boom, a variety of stage lights. There’s also a shot where she jumps and arcs into the air past a mirror image of herself, taken right from Can’t Stop the Music. Then there’s the close-up shot of her leotard-clad butt as she stands in place and pumps her legs up and down. This shot is more than a tad reminiscent of a famous bit from, hey, Flashdance. By the way, the casting here, for once, works quite well. As a dancer, actress Cynthia Dale is a good aerobics instructor. There’s the umpteenth awful pop tune. This includes the lyric “Your dream / was once an illusion / so far awayâ€¦” Begging the question, if something is an illusion, how does one gauge its relative proximity? The song is also guilty of criminally poor use of that ’80s staple, the drum machine. Take my word for it, it’s three plus minutes of heck.
Cut to Jack sitting in bed, lustfully gazing at Sam as she, uh, performs is the word, I guess, aerobics on the TV. In a rather distasteful bit, Debbie’s head then peeks up from under the covers, having been, I suppose, performing a close personal favor for Jack. Needless to say, she’s a little disconcerted to see him leering at her rival (assuming one can have a ‘rival’ over an aerobics show, that is). However, a little sweet talk on the order of “she [Sam] isn’t so hot” and Debbie falls back into his bed. I believe that the scene is supposed to be ‘erotic,’ but this remains a theory, at best, considering the lack of evidence to support it. Anyway, after assuring her that she is, in fact, hotter than Sam, they get back to business. However, we again see Jack, in the middle of his ministrations, ogling Sam’s image on the tube. They linger on this for a bit, in case we ‘miss’ the significance.
Well, perhaps we did miss it. For instance, maybe just now our heads slipped down and we jarred awake, having missed the last scene. (I can dream, can’t I?) So we to cut to Sam’s butt as she works her, uh, tower torso up and down over the mirrored surface (?) of her little dais. Then Jack appears. Oh, now I see why the surface is mirrored. So that we can shoot their conversation in a cool, ‘arty’ fashion. Michael Antonioni, take note. The two engage in some ‘suggestive’ dialog that brings to mind a bad high school production of To Have and Have Not. (See IMMORTAL DIALOG.) Much of this is shot with Sam’s Spandex-wrapped buttocks highlighted prominently in the foreground of the shot, adding to the *cough* sexual charge. Sam, despite her presumed relationship with Steve, seems flattered by Jack’s attentions.
Cut to, and, really, somebody, shoot me, another aerobics class scene. At least this one’s over fairly quick, allowing the students to file out past the brightly lit Coca-Cola machine. Steve appears, asking Sam if she’s free for the evening. However, she’s not. The company that provides “the clothes” for her show is throwing a cocktail party and she has to attend. (Why couldn’t she take him with? Would a pro football player be unwelcome at a corporate event?) Nor did she watch his latest out of town game. I think the idea is that she’s in danger of being corrupted by the heady sensations of being a ‘star,’ pace her flirting with Jack. As well, neither of Sam’s two buddies watched the game. I don’t know. If you were going out with a pro athlete, or had a best friend who was, wouldn’t you be more likely to watch their games? You’d think so.
They save some bucks by skipping actually showing the party, a gambit previously seen here in The Uninvited. Instead, we cut to Sam returning home to find Steve waiting in her apartment. Here they decide it’s time for another time-wasting sub-plot. Steve’s been talking with an old friend, who’s trying to convince him to get involved with “something solid.” In this case, a restaurant, which is pretty funny because the restaurant business is one of the few things shakier than being a pro athlete. Anyway, apparently for plot purposes, this would involve Steve relocating to Chicago. (Do you really change what professional sports team you play for in order to open a restaurant?) He wants Sam to go with. But, of course, with Sam being the local Queen of the Aerobics World — one of the few things shakier than the restaurant business â€“ well, you can see where this is going. They fight, he leaves, she cries, will they ever find happiness, etc.
Cut to the club — hey, there, brightly lit Coca-Cola machine — where Sam’s Two Friends are merrily racing around while sweeping the floors. (?) Given how successful we keep hearing this place is, you’d think they could hire some janitorial staff. On the other hand, with Sam leading all the actual classes, we never really get the sense that her two ‘partners’ do anything. So maybe they are the janitorial staff.
We cut to Sam dancing her blues away in a darkly lit room with high windows that looks exactly like the darkly lit room with dark windows from the Ballet School audition climax of, hey, Flashdance. Cue another bad tune. (“Soundtrack available from Jam-an-Ice-Pick-in-Your-Ears Records”.) Cripes, it’s amazing how much crap you can cram into a movie that lacks a plot. Then the phone rings. Wearing her heart on her sleeve — no, not literally, worse the luck â€“ Sam looks on soulfully as KC answers the phone. But it’s a client, not Steve. Will they ever find happiness? (That she could call him seems not to have occurred to anyone.) Sam then returns to the dancing that alone stands between her and emotional collapse. Which, ironically, is exactly the opposite effect it has on us in the audience.
Cut to the production set of Sam’s show, with Jack again appearing on the scene. ‘Oh, no,’ we’re undoubtedly supposed to gasp, ‘Sam’s in an emotionally vulnerable state and might a dreadful mistake!’ (Instead we’re going, ‘Oh, no, there’s still a half hour of this garbage left to go!’) For some reason this set brings out the most puerile instincts in the director. The last conversation between Sam and Jack was partially filmed off of a mirror reflection. Here, the two are in the background of the scene but featured on a TV monitor in the foreground. Ooh. Ahh. Kubrick’s got nothing on you, my man. Thenâ€¦nothing. They cut away, without anything even really being said. Point made, I guess.
Sam finally calls Steve’s hotel room (he’s playing an away game) but hangs up when a woman answers the phone. Cut to Sam at the beach. She mournfully looks over a gray ocean tide, the roiling waters reflecting the turmoil in her soul. Or something. Cut to Sam having a night out with Jack. At least she finally got to wear her bathrobe dress. They’re in his health club after hours, and she’s performing gymnastics as foreplay. Or something. Then it’s a swim in the gym’s pool. I’m not sure where she got the swimsuit. Did he tell her to bring one on their date? They’re just starting to get cozy when *gasp* Debbie appears. Despite our anticipations of a ‘scene’ — you’d think, this far into the picture, we’d know better — she turns on her heels and leaves without making her presence known.
We catch up to Debbie, herself leading an aerobics class. Man, we just can’t catch a break. As the class ends, Walter, an elderly man, approaches her. They tour the facility, or something, and we waste a bit of running time watching some water volleyball taking place in the swimming pool. Yeah, thanks, that’s exciting. Jack is one of the, er, participants, and as the game ends he swims over to the twosome. Walter, we learn, is his primary investor. Debbie’s informed him that they’re losing customers to Heavenly Bodies, again, an unlikely scenario for a full-fledged health club. She’s apparently hoping through him to force Jack into doing something to close down Sam’s operation, thereby ruining her romantic competitor.
Cut to KC calling Sam out from leading a class. Sam turns the leader spot over to another woman, who, amazingly, appears to be as talented at aerobics as Sam herself. At least as far as I can tell, anyway. Sam is told that new owners have bought the premises and are kicking them out. They have a four-year lease, but in the event of a change of ownership they can be booted out with thirty days notice. This explains why you should probably have a lawyer look over your lease agreements. Of course, only this location â€“ an old warehouse, remember — will do for the club, so disaster is imminent. Sam is additionally chagrined to learn that the new owner is Walter, primary investor in Jack’s health club.
Which is where we head to next. This locale is introduced with a shot of two leotard-clad women, one prominently drinking from a Coca-Cola can. Debbie is working out on a weight machine as Sam storms into the place. Ooh, catfight! Sam’s come to rag on Jack, but quickly discovers that Debbie was the author of her misfortune. Debbie explains how it was she who convinced the profit-minded Walter that the warehouse “would make a terrific parking lot.” (In an industrial sector? How would that make money?) Looking a bit out of her depth, both as a character and an actress, the shocked Sam turns and flees. “How does it feel being out of a job?” Debbie sneers to her back. Showing her returning spunk, Sam turns and replies, “How does it feel being an assh*le?!” Debbie responds to this devastatingly witty rejoinder with an ineffectual slow burn.
Cut to the next morning’s telecast. Sam interrupts her workout to spew about the whole “they stole my club” deal, no doubt shocking her many â€“ well, maybe not many — dozens of viewers. This explains why the script has unconvincingly set up her show as being broadcast live, because otherwise they’d just edit this out. Actually, even live they’d just cut her off, go to commercial and cue up an old episode, but of course they don’t. (By the way, since every show consists solely of Sam doing a series of aerobics, why would a different show be needed every day anyway?) In fact, the director tries to cut her off â€“ he’s Jack’s pal, remember? — but is overruled by the producer. Yeah, sure. Jack is quickly woken by a phone call. Soon he and Debbie, lying beside him, turn on the show and watch Sam’s antics.
Here, finally, finally, they finally introduce the film’s utterly moronic central plot device. That’s right, with the film more than two thirds over. Despite having no legal leg to stand on, Sam â€“ get this â€“ publicly challenges Jack’s people to a sort of Aerobics-Off contest (!!!) to determine who will get to buy the warehouse. This involves matching “the best from your club against the best from our club.” Of course, this doesn’t even constitute a legal challenge, as Sam isn’t providing anything. For a contract to be legal, both parties have to offer “consideration,” or something of value, and Sam has nothing to offer. So even if she won, the agreement wouldn’t be enforceable. Her childish tirade finished, and with Sam doing a “warm-down” (three minutes into the show), her crew breaks into applause. Huh?
Sam’s challenge has created a media frenzy, or at least as much of one as the producers could afford here. Which amounts to about two ‘reporters’ chasing Jack around for a comment. Meanwhile, protesters, all of about twelve of them, are waving signs in front of Jack’s club. Customers — OK, one guy — are soon leaving the club because of “the hassle.” Jack tries to convince the guy to stay, but is told that the fellow has three children who “love this Samantha.” (Then why did he come to the club in his workout clothes anyway?) Given the commercial apocalypse they’re facing, Walter offers to sell Sam the warehouse. Jack, however, refuses. They’ve been challenged, see, and if they back down they’ll be ruined. Or something. Look, I’m not going to waste my time trying to make sense of any of this. The Aerobics-Off is on!
Aiieee!! Training-montage time! (Need I mention the advent of yet another bad pop song?) Meanwhile, we hear an expository newscast â€“ what an innovative device! â€“ explaining how the Aerobics contest has captured the imagination of the city. Then cut to a press conference (!!) at which the rules for the contest are set forth. Needless to say, the more time they spend trying to make this scenario believable the funnier it becomes. The contest will consist of hour-long blocks of aerobicizing, with ten-minute breaks inbetween. Perhaps the most hilarious detail is that the contest will be broadcast live (!!). Yeah, nine or ten solid hours of aerobics should be a real ratings blockbuster. All this is intercut with the supposedly frantic training montage, during which we again see almost no one sweating.
It’s the night before the contest, and Sam is exiting the shower. (This time I’m pretty sure her bathrobe is a bathrobe and not a dress.) The bell rings and it’s Jack. He tries to get romantic (?!), but she slaps him. Angered, he pushes her into a table and leaves. In case you’ve never seen a movie before, this is because a hero/ine must always sustain an injury before their final victory, so as to make their triumph all the more impressive. This does leave some questions, though. First, except for his violence now, none of this is really Jack’s fault. (Which probably explains why they have Jack so explicitly act like a jerk now, so as to clarify his villain status.) After all, it was Debbie who manipulated Walter into buying the warehouse. Jack had nothing to do with it. So if Sam was willing to go out with him before, I don’t really see what’s changed. However, now that he’s assaulted her, why not have him arrested?
Cut to the next morning. Sure enough, Sam is sporting a cut and big bruise on her leg. Gasp! Can she compete, or will her dreams be lost? (Again, why she doesn’t just publicly announce Jack’s assault on her isn’t gone into.) A *cough* crowd is outside Heavenly Bodies, demanding that they be allowed in to watch this epic event. Meanwhile, Sam and her team arrive to get ready. However, one fellow couldn’t make it. Who can possibly take his place? Whyâ€¦Steve! Yes, he’s here to help Sam at her darkest hour. How romantic! Or something. Grasping her two friends, Sam smilingly proclaims “Here goes something!” Tragically, she will be proved wrong in her contention.
Cut to the two teams stretching in preparation of this rigorous contest. Debbie and Jack are among the opposing team, naturally. Meanwhile Sam and Steve are joined by others, including that one woman who, I swear, looks exactly like Joyce DeWitt. Now, I’m sure it’s not actually her. If it were, though, her appearance here as “Woman #4” would, I believe, represent her second biggest showbiz job. Anyway, so begins the match. And so we head into roughly ten solid minutes of screentime featuring people grinding their hips, flinging their arms in the air, performing rhythmic punching motions and doing jumping jacks. Never again would the screen see the like. And for pretty good reason, too.
The *cough* action is so torrid that the participants actually are shown sweating. People begin to fall out during the second hour, while Sam is being bothered by her secret leg injury. Cut to the fourth hour. Jack’s team has had less dropouts, despite the fact that it’s Heavenly Bodies that solely performs aerobics. Also, Sam is limping badly, at least when the script calls for her to do so. The announcer points out for us that if she were to be forced out, it might so demoralize her team that they’d lose. So, of course, it’s all riding on her. “In reality,” he further explicates, “this is a personal battle for her.” Yes, yes, we get it, already.
In the fifth hour of dancing, things tighten up as more of Jack’s people drop out. Oddly, the people who do so don’t perform any stretches, yet somehow manage to avoid massive muscle cramps. Same thing during the breaks, everybody just flops down and relaxes. Then back to the contest. Sam’s team is ahead when she falls to the floor. Does disaster loom? No, she gets back up! What a heroic moment! However, this led me to wonder what they were doing about the sweat problem. When I was in Navy boot camp (I know it’s hard to believe from looking at me, but I was a reservist during the ’80s) we’d get exercised, or “cycled,” in our bunkroom. This, by the way, in our full dungaree uniforms and boots. If the Company Commander was in a particular mood, he might have us don our work jackets, too. After an hour of seventy or eighty guys jumping around in one room, the floors would be hugely puddled and the walls would literally be dripping with sweat. (Said puddling, by the way, at this point made jumping jacks actively dangerous and push-ups rather disgusting.) While we’re talking less people in a larger room, the puddles should be as prevalent here by now.
Well, I don’t want to keep you in suspense. Suffice it to say that Sam recovers her feet just before the ten-second disqualification period has expired. Whew! That wasâ€¦too close. Then, after the seventh hour of ‘dancing,’ plus, let’s see, ten minutes between each setâ€¦so, roughly, eight hours into the contest. Are they still supposed to be telecasting this? Eight hours of aerobic *cough* dancing? Anyway, Sam’s leg has begun to (slightly) bleed again, and the non-too-astute KC demands to know what happened to it. You’d think she’d have noted Sam’s problem maybe four or five hours ago, but there you go. Sam, however, is hanging tough, and refusing to admit that anything’s wrong. And why shouldn’t she? We all know she’s going to win the contest after it’s just her and rival Debbie left. Oops. Hope I didn’t blow anything for you there.
Her reticence is foiled, however, when son Joel stops by for a visit. He gives Sam a big hug, and uncomplainingly, too, given what she supposedly must smell like be now. Then he looks up with a big smile and delivers his important line. “That’s the man who hurt my Mommy!” he cheerfully exclaims, indicating Jack. Hearing this, Steve delivers Jack a glare (wow, how machoâ€¦get over there and kick his ass, dude, you’re a football player for heaven’s sake!). He then joins KC in demanding an explanation from Sam, but she continues to maintain her silence. Joel, however, isn’t as tight-lipped and spills the beans. Knowing that a fight would get him kicked out of the contest, Steve instead walks over and insults Jack’s, er, manhood. This leads Jack to sucker punch him when his back is turned, getting him kicked out. Hmm, look like Steve’s sly planâ€¦huh? OK, now Steve’s tackling Jack â€“ he’s a football player, you know â€“ soâ€¦I guess it wasn’t a plan after all. Steve takes a typical movie beating, then, of course, shrugs it off and takes Jack out with a couple of those patented William Shatner intertwined-fists-to-the-back blows. Anyway, with both guys booted out of the contest, we finally near the inevitable Sam/Debbie one-on-one face-off.
As the contest continues, various extras and bit players continue to fall out. Sam again goes down, apparently to add ‘tension.’ Against all odds, though, *snort* she gets back up to her feet in the nick of time. Whew! That wasâ€¦too close. Again. Oh, wait. No, I guess that would be too clichÃ©. Instead, she’s saved by the coincidental ringing of the one-hour bell, just one second before she’s forced out. Whew, etc. As she rests, Steve appears and lends emotional support by relating an anecdote about covering up a broken nose in collage so as to play a big game. (Do football players get removed from games for a broken nose?)
Back to the eighth period of aerobicizing. Finally, finally, we get down to the none-too-surprising final showdown between Sam and her nemesis. Sam starts to cramp up (not like that, you pervert!) and, I swear, starts seeing flashbacks from earlier in the movie. (!!) The countdown occurs in slow motion, or least it seems like it, no, I guess it really is, and then the Golden Earring “Twilight Zone” rip-off guitar riff kicks in again. All of the sudden (shock), she summons up a burst of strength, and begins, er, you know, doing aerobics stuff with renewed vigor. “Samantha Blair has found a new source of strength!” the announcer exclaims, just in case we didn’t get what was happening. Demoralized by the realization that they’ll never let her defeat the movie’s heroine, Debbie falls to the ground exhausted. So cheered are Sam’s compatriots that their various twisted ankles and such instantly heal and they join her back out on the floor for a dancing victory celebration.
That’s about it, except for a lame coda set up when Steve leaves the gym rather than join in the hoopla. Then, later, he walks from the stadium to find Sam waiting nearby with a bunch of balloons, which, duh, she releases. Soâ€¦what, exactly? I guess she’s taking him back after their fight (and his cheating on her). However, what about the Chicago thing? I mean, after all this, it’s hard to believe that Sam is giving up the club and her *cough* monster TV show to move to another city with him. But was winning the most important thing, and now she’s ready to join him? Or is he staying here instead? Will they fashion a long-distance relationship, secure now in their unbreakable bond? And why do I even care?
Oh. I don’t.
Start with the fact that the sum total of actual nudity and sex comprises well under a minute of screentime. (The two nude shots themselves probably last ten second, tops.) Then add in the endless footage of shapely and tightly clad butts and crotches and boobies thrusting towards the camera. Overall, the effect is of a made-for-TV movie doing what it can to emulate a sexier theatrical release. Ironically, though, the incessant shots of grinding crotches eventually becomes more distastefully prurient than actual matter of fact nudity would have. Presumably the calculation was that women would flock to see a tale of female empowerment and the mawkish love story, while guys would be satisfied with the ‘sex’ provided by the constant gyrating of tightly wrapped female body parts. In other words, the perfect ‘date’ movie. I think by now that you can guess my appraisal of how well the film succeeded in this, or really any other, task.
Also interesting is the film’s cast. Predictably, given the plethora of Slasher movies in the ’80s, many of the young, pretty and largely unknown cast here appeared in such flicks. This is especially unsurprising when one notes that Heavenly Bodies was filmed in Canada, home of the cheapo Slasher industry. Due to government grants, you could get partial funding for any film that contained significant Canadian ‘elements,’ i.e., participants. Hence appearances in such fare from Canuck actors like Leslie Nielson (Prom Night) and Glenn Ford (Happy Birthday to Me). Actors from our current subject include Cynthia Dale (Sam), who appeared in My Bloody Valentine. Richard Rebiere (Steve) and bit player Murray Westgate appeared in Happy Birthday to Me. Pam Henry, who might have been Sam’s white buddy, appeared in Prom Night. Meanwhile, Heavenly Bodies writer/director Lawrence Dane also had a large acting role in Happy Birthday to Me, playing Melissa Sue Anderson’s father. This was to be his only directorial effort.
This doesn’t even include those who appeared in other types of horror and sci-fi movies. Cec Linder, for example, appeared in the gory killer rat flick Deadly Eyes. The biggest thrill for Jabootuians, however, has to be the appearance here of Walter George Alton (Jack). This picture represents his first acting appearance in the four years since playing the title role in the atrocious MST3K subject Puma Man. Those two films, along with an appearance in 10, apparently represent his entire cinematic career.
A bad pop tune opens the film, driving home the horrors of the workaday world. Just, you know, in case we didn’t ‘get it’ from watching our heroine ‘slave away’ at her typewriter. Note how the song’s lyrics cleverly reinforce this message, while at the same time providing valuable, if inadvertent, advise to anybody who accidentally ended up in the audience of this film:
“Breaking out of prison, baby,
Breaking out of prison, girl.
Breaking out of prison, baby,
Breaking out of prison, girl.
Breaking out of prison, baby,
Breaking out of prison, girl.
I know you can.
I know you can.
And you make it sound so hard but I’ll tell you something,
You’re punishing yourself and that’s the truth.
You can walk right out of here, nobody’s stopping you,
You can walk right out of here and bust loose.
You can walk out of here any time that you want,
you can run out of here any time that you want.
Breaking out of prison, baby,
[Etc, ad nauseamâ€¦]”
Sam receives a poetic ‘Gorilla-Gram’ from a contrite Steve. Wordsworth has nothing to worry about:
“I can’t smell a rose, ’cause I broke my nose.
Can’t pick a good wine, don’t know where to dine.
My manners, in tatters, I can’t tell you what flatters.
So I sent King Kong over to see,
If a lady like you could ever go out with a monkey like me.”
Sam’s two friends, KC and the white one, excitedly interrogate Sam on her first date with Steve. You should imagine the following in a really bad giggling and squirming Dishin’-With-the-Girls sort of fashion:
White Friend: “How was he? What happened last night? Don’t tell us if you don’t want to.”
KC: “If you got lucky, give us a smile.”
Sam, breaking the news: “He cooked for us.”
KC: “He cooked for you?”
WF: “That’s it?! C’mon!”
Sam, sarcastically giving them what they want: “The Earth moved. Bells were ringing. There were fireworks.” [She turns to leave, then dramatically spins around.] And Joel kicked his ass at Snakes and Ladders!”
Uproarious laughter ensues.
Break out the asbestos underwear. As Sam’s show is about to begin telecasting, Jack makes his move, and they engage in some steamy, sexually tinged repartee:
Sam: “Well, unless you want to be on TVâ€¦”
Jack: “No thanks. Beside you I’d just fade right into the scenery. I’ll just settle for being one of your groupies.”
Sam, slyly: “Aren’t you a little old for that?”
Jack: “Maybe I’ll appoint myself President of your fan club.”
Sam, suggestively: “And Secretary?”
Jack: “And Treasurer. And sole member.”
Sam, or rather Sam’s butt, now in the foreground of the shot and sticking into the camera: “And of course I’d have to attend all the meetings?”
Jack, with a lascivious smile: “That’s the idea.”