Take one part Karate Kid, one part Footloose, add a little Teen Wolf, a dash of Soul Man, and a sprinkling of Some Kind of Wonderful and what do you get? No, not big hair ready to go up in flames at the sight of a Zippo. You've got VH-1's new movie, Totally Awesome.
VH-1 calls it a "send-up of classic '80s movies," and a more apropos description could not be had. The movie nails all the '80s staples/clichés, from the songs and speech, to the clothing, characters, Geri-Curl, and more. It's a bit cheesy, like all the movies of the 1980s it takes its inspiration from, but it's all in good fun, even the gratuitous female nudity (in the unrated version of the DVD, anyway).
Our story follows Charlie (Mikey Day) and his sister, Lori (Dominique Swain), who move from Pittsburgh to California with the rest of their family. Charlie quickly falls for the popular girl, Kimberly (Brittany Daniel), but runs afoul of her jock bully boyfriend, Kipp (Joey Kern, who also just happens to be one of the producers of the film). Muscles are flexed, snide comments are made, and soon Charlie accepts a challenge to compete against Kipp in the school decathlon.
Along the way, Charlie makes friends with Billie (Nicki Clyne), a not-so-popular girl with hopes of being his something more one day. Charlie also looks to some unlikely role models for help in his quest to win the decathlon and get the girl. These paragons of '80s wisdom include Yamagashi (James Hong), an overtly gay version of The Karate Kid's Mr. Miyagi, and Darnell (Tracy Morgan), the son Shaft and Rick James would have had if the cocaine had held out (kidding), who advises Charlie that in order to get the girl, he has to "act black."
Meanwhile Lori, who was slated to become the newest member of the Pittsburgh Ballet, finds that dancing in her new town is outlawed and throws a major hissy fit. Chris Kattan comes to the rescue as Gabriel, a 35-year-old janitor who runs a secret dance school. He hears Lori's laments and brings her into the underground fold. In true '80s fashion, romance ensues.
While Totally Awesome's storyline is as weak as the films it parodies, it's worth watching if only for the celebrity cameos and its comedic stars, Chris Kattan and Tracy Morgan. Of note are celeb pop-ups, from Tone-Loc injecting a pre-"Wild Thing" rap to a crowd of teens not allowed to dance, to Ben Stein interjecting a bit of narration in his unique deadpan style, often imitated but never perfected by others.
If you've already seen Totally Awesome on VH-1, it's definitely worth picking up a copy of the DVD, if only for the seven minutes of Tracy Morgan's ad libs. Other bonus features include: commentary by Tracy Morgan and writer/director Neal Brennan Dolby; deleted scenes; bloopers and outtakes hosted by Neal Brennan and Joey Kern; and two short, but forgettable Joey Kern featurettes.
In the end, Totally Awesome was a fun, lighthearted flick with the right amount of sass and eye-rolling cliché to make it into my permanent library (what can I say, I'm easy). I give it a solid B.