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  Tapeheads Living On Video
Year: 1988
Director: Bill Fishman
Stars: John Cusack, Tim Robbins, Mary Crosby, Clu Gulager, Katy Boyer, Jessica Walter, Sam Moore, Junior Walker, Susan Tyrrell, Doug McClure, Connie Stevens, King Cotton, Don Cornelius, Ebbe Roe Smith, Keith Joe Dick, Lee Arenberg, Xander Berkeley, Sy Richardson
Genre: Comedy, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Today is the birthday of Josh Tager (Tim Robbins) and his best friend Ivan Alexeev (John Cusack) is over at his house, where he still lives with his parents, to celebrate but after Josh's father (Doug McClure) ruins the cake and starts yelling about how he's wasted his life, Josh and Ivan make a quick exit. They both have jobs as security guards in the same building and as Josh is a genius with electrical systems and cameras, they can hook up the CCTV to make it look to their boss as if there is no one about while they kid around as much as they want. Tonight Ivan has an idea, and has invited a load of strangers round to have a party: they should really video this...

And video they do, because this is all about the cutting edge of technology - at least it was in 1988. As many have noted, not much dates faster than a movie that tries to capture the zeitgeist, and Tapeheads looked positively prehistoric about five minutes after it was released, but nowadays that means lots of nostalgic goodness for eighties kids. As directed by Bill Fishman in a manner that suggests this was something akin to his life story he was putting up on the screen, the film is in love with that era-defining cultural artefact, the pop video, as well as the cassettes that they were played from which feature heavily.

Yes, time was that the only way you could get to watch music promotion was on television, usually on MTV, here substituted with the non-litigation attracting RVTV, the same station in all but name. No YouTube in those days, you had to wait until your favourite song turned up on the television, but nobody minded, they didn't know any better, and the world captured in videos seemed impossibly glamorous: is it any wonder that Ivan and Josh wish to become a part of this? Therefore after losing their security guard jobs the duo head for Hollywood, living for free in the parent-owned studio of artist Belinda (Katy Boyer) to draw up their plans for TV domination.

Speaking of domination, there's a presidential candidate involved, Norman Mart (Clu Gulager), who has a tape of his unorthodox sexual practices which somehow ends up in the hands of Ivan and Josh. Only they have no idea they have it, which makes them look thoroughly naive for most of the running time which would be all right in their proto-Bill and Ted kind of way, except even Bill and Ted were canny when it came to solving their problems. If the enthusiastic cluelessness of the leads doesn't bother you, then there's a lot to appreciate about Tapeheads as video and music spoofs abound, and ridiculous situations have quite some comic mileage no matter how they turn out, disastrously or otherwise.

It seems as though Fishman has a lot of friends in the industry, as this is packed with star cameos and sometimes longer roles, so in the blink and you'll miss them stakes you get Weird Al Yankovic seen from afar, Doug E. Fresh as a beatboxing executive, Jello Biafra as an FBI agent and executive producer Michael Nesmith of the Monkees here in a case of mistaken identity - among others. To sweeten the deal for music aficionados, there's also sizeable supporting roles for soul legends Junior Walker (who gets to play his saxophone) and Sam Moore, here as Ivan and Josh's childhood heroes, now washed up and singing in bars. They make it their mission to bring these crooners back to the limelight, but in a busy narrative Tapeheads piles up the absurdist gags and wins a lot of goodwill in the process. Not simply for those who have affectionate memories of the eighties, this is a tasty slice of lightly anti-establishment fun. Music by Fishbone.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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