They were rad, gnarly, tubular and totally to the max. And now the '80s are back.
When you're sitting in the movie theater this summer, the $10 ticket price and the absence of Coreys Haim and Feldman from the screen might be your only clues that it's 2007, not 1987. With talking cars transforming, John McClane having another bad day and the Simpsons getting cinematic — not to mention the influence the decade holds over films from "Knocked Up" to "Fanboys" — it seems as though the time has finally come to accessorize your cell phone with your Swatch.
The flashback flicks begin June 27 with "Live Free or Die Hard," the big-budget blockbuster that once again resurrects Bruce Willis' pioneering action star (see " 'Die Hard' Sequel Gets More Action With ... Kevin Smith?"). It's no exaggeration to say that 1988's "Die Hard" introduced the modern action blueprint — everything from "Speed" to "Air Force One" to "24" came from the simple pitch: "It's 'Die Hard' on a [blank]." Nineteen years ago, John McClane (Bruce Willis) had a hairline and a wife who wore shoulder pads. Now both his scalp and his ignorance of modern technology will be exposed as a cyber-terrorist (Timothy Olyphant) forces him to take his guns to town for the first time since "Die Hard With a Vengeance" portrayed a hero still dependent on pay phones.
One week later, Shia LaBeouf stars in a film about a toy line that took over the U.S. when he was negative-2 years old. "Transformers" is action director Michael Bay's reimagining of the alien race that infiltrates our ranks by taking the form of earthly vehicles. With human help from LaBeouf, Bernie Mac, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese, Optimus Prime is once again ready to take on the evil Megatron forces intent on exterminating the human race. We're assuming the tape-deck Transformer is nowhere to be seen, as the only place he'd be able to infiltrate these days is a 99-cent store (see "Michael Bay Divulges 'Transformers' Details — And Word Of 'Bad Boys III' ").
The Reagan-era renaissance continues July 27 with "The Simpsons Movie," based on an obscure series of commercial bumpers that aired during "The Tracey Ullman Show" when it kicked off the first season of Fox Network programming in 1987. Oh yeah, the yellow-skinned cartoon clan also inspired its own show ... which is now the longest-running American sitcom of all time (see " 'Simpsons Movie' Cast Discusses Green Day's Appearance In Film"). Somewhere out there, the creator of "Dr. N!Godatu" is kicking herself.
Although little is known about their big-screen debut, the residents of Springfield seem better suited for 2007 than McClane or Megatron because of their continuous pop-culture dominance. Looking back through the years of George H. W. Bush, "Do the Bartman" and all those bootleg T-shirts, it's mind-boggling that the series is still going strong. And since Homer, Marge, Mo and the rest of the gang never age, who knows? In its 20th season, perhaps the show will launch the first of 20 movies.
The fourth '80s flashback might be less obvious than the others, since most people remember the musical it's based on rather than the 1988 flick that started it all. Nevertheless, "Hairspray" will shake, shimmy and sing its way into your local megaplex the weekend before "Simpsons," giving you the choice of which comedic sight you'd rather groan at: Homer in his tighty-whities or John Travolta in a dress (see "John Travolta: 'Timberlake Has My Moves, For Sure' ").
"Hairspray" follows the adventures of Tracy Turnblad, a rotund revolutionary who changes the way people think about weight and race when she gets the chance to dance on TV's "The Corny Collins Show." Arguably the most mainstream flick in schlock-meister John Waters' canon, the Ricki Lake-starring vehicle begat the Broadway musical that swept the 2003 Tony Awards and is now giving birth to the film featuring Travolta, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes and Christopher Walken. Whether the film makes you nostalgic for '62, '88 or '03, the one thing we'll all have in common is hoping that someone in a beehive hairdo doesn't sit in front of us in the theater.
If those four disparate summer choices can't convince you that a Max Headroom biopic will be greenlit any day now, consider additional proof that the greed decade is shaping Hollywood's master plan. "300" filmmaker Zack Snyder recently showed no shame in naming "Star Wars" as the movie that influenced him most, confirming that directors, actors and writers alike now care more for John Hughes than John Sturges.
Enough has already been written about the rapid-fire editing, blockbuster mentality and affection for pop-culture recycling — all of which can be found throughout the summer schedule — so we'll instead point out a few other flicks born of minds that remember the Monchhichis.
"Knocked Up" (June 1) and "Superbad" (August 17) continue the recent resurgence of hard-R comedies (read: boobies and F-bombs) declared dead following such early '80s classics as "Porky's," "Zapped!" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." "Fanboys" (August 17) features Billy Dee Williams, William Shatner and Carrie Fisher while telling the story of teenage kids breaking into George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch — and doing a striptease to a Menudo song (see "A Road Trip To See 'Star Wars'? May The Force Be With You, 'Fanboys' "). Eighties staples like Kevin Costner ("Mr. Brooks"), Ellen Barkin ("Ocean's Thirteen") and Michelle Pfeiffer (three movies!) are attempting comebacks, and summer headlines seem certain to be dominated by the latest updates on such movies like "The Smurfs," the sequel to "The Dark Crystal" and the fourth installments of the Rambo and Indiana Jones series (see "Lucas Talks 'Indy 4,' Mayer Gabs About Collabos With Keys — And ODB?! — At Time Event").
So this summer, bypass the nachos and sneak some Now and Laters into the theater instead. Rather than pounding fists with your buddy as you walk out of a good movie, give him two for flinching. And if a Bon Jovi tune comes on the radio, don't give love a bad name: Bust a move with your best truffle shuffle, cabbage patch or Ed Lover dance. Because this summer, the temperature won't be the only thing hanging out in the '80s.
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