At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Airheads “94”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Comedy/ Stars: Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler, Joe Mantegna, Michael McKean, Chris Farley, Ernie Hudson, Judd Nelson, Amy Locane, Nina Siemaszko, Marshall Bell, Reg E. Cathey, David Arquette, Michael Richards, Michelle Hurst, Harold Ramis, Rob Zombie, Kurt Loder/ Runtime: 92 minutes

I feel it must be said to start this review that very few of the movies I have had the pleasure and privilege of reviewing were ever as spot-on with their titles as a little comedy from 1994 known simply as Airheads. Indeed not only is brilliantly descriptive of the rock star wannabe three main characters, but it is also is delightful play on the popular term “air guitar” and it also most certainly is descriptive of this film through and through. Indeed I say this because Airheads is a film that, although possessing nothing resembling whatever the cinematic equivalent of neurons firing may be, probably a Terrence Malik film though I could be wrong, but in this case that is perfectly ok.  Indeed Airheads may not have much if any brain matter, though in all fairness it doesn’t take much brain matter to enjoy this film in the first place, but this is an example of what happens when brainless entertainment is actually done fairly well. Indeed it is a movie that aims for very little, and succeeds at providing just enough: just enough fun, just enough entertainment, and just enough to leave a smile on your face by the time it is all done 92 minutes later. Ultimately though, Airheads is definitive proof that mindless movies aren’t always the worst thing in the world that they are sometimes made out to be, and that leaning back in the nice cool air conditioning to beat that summer heat and watching a 92-minute film simply for the fun of it can still be quite enjoyable especially when the movie you are watching is specifically aiming to be just that and no more and no less.

The plot is as follows: Airheads follows the trials and tribulations of a trio of hopeful rock gods by the names of Moe, Curly, and Larry ehh Chazz, Pip, and Rex. When the film opens, we quickly learn that these “boy wonders” have recorded a song that they think will propel them to the top of the heap in the world of rock ’n roll and thus groupies and money a-plenty to say nothing of glory will at long last be theirs. Unfortunately there is just one teeny tiny dilemma standing in their way: they cannot, for the life of them, get anyone with any clout in the industry to want to listen to their demo tape. To be fair, it’s not due to lack of effort since we soon learn that band leader Chazz has a storied history of sneaking into record companies and approaching executives and pleading with them to listen…..and a long history of being thrown out by security for his “time and troubles”. As the film opens, we see that Chazz is at this again as this time he is going after a notorious record producer by the name of Jimmie Wing to give the band’s demo a listen. Of course it isn’t too much of a spoiler to reveal that he sadly once again falls flat on his face, but this time it proves to be just simply too much for his girlfriend Kayla who, whilst leaving, winds up walking out with the cassette demo in her possession thus leaving the band with only the reel-to-reel version to try and promote with. However rather than pack their bags and simply just admit defeat, the band decides to incorporate the last possible trick they possess up their short sleeves. To that end, our intrepid trio are able to acquire plastic water guns that look uncomfortably too much like the real deal, and armed with their plastic “negotiating tools”, they sneak into the local rock station and attempt to coerce the local D.J. by the name of Ian “The Shark” to play their music. Of course, as to be expected, things begin to go awry in the form of not only their sole remaining demo tape being demolished, but the studio treating the incident as a legit hostage situation. A labeling that, despite bringing the police to typically surround the perimeter and negotiate, has the curious side effect of also bringing a slowly-increasing swarm of music lovers who quickly become eager to hear the music that has led these “boy wonders” to commit to this course of action and, for all intents and purposes, risk their very lives for little more than a few minutes of exposure and fame….

Now I am just going to go out on a limb and say this: Airheads is not really the kind of that film that needs an in-detail analysis of it done. (Shocking I know) That is because at the end of this day this is a movie that is plain and simply designed both to entertain and to satisfy as much of an audience as is possible. Indeed there are no immersive concepts at play, no huge twists in the narrative, and no metaphors to be found anywhere. If anything, this film is constructed on a basic plot and as basic of a resolution to that plot, but it is the voyage from one end of the film to the other that is where this film really comes into its own as a distinctly brainless yet amusing method to exterminate a hour and a half from your lives. Not only that, but you should be able to figure out not only just who will eventually befriend this trio of dreamers and who will oppose them, but also just how the whole story is going to play out from beginning to end. A feat that is possible because this is a quite straightforward narrative that is, more or less, a “David and Goliath”-kinda story, but is also one that only explores that concept just enough to help the film get from laugh to laugh. Yet the film even manages to do a wonderful job of not only keeping the comedy on an even keel, but also blending it fairly well with the minuscule amounts of drama, action, and romance that come up as the narrative rolls along. Indeed it is this delightful mix that really results in a film that is easy to sit through, easy to forget you ever saw it, and thus easy enough to put in and watch time and time again.

Ultimately however, the area where this film manages to really shine beyond its premise is the capable performances brought to the film by its truly terrific cast. Indeed in the roles of our intrepid protagonists, we see that the grouping comprised of Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler, and Steve Buscemi have terrific chemistry together and manage to do a terrific job of creating for the audience a quite plausible trio of devoted and dedicated, but completely out of their element wannabe rock gods who naively bumble their way into the mess that is the core of the narrative in this film. Yet out of the three, I would have to say that it is Fraser who is the standout, and honestly gives one of the finer performances, outside of his role in DC’s Doom Patrol, Encino Man, The Mummy movies, and maybe a handful of others, as the most “intellectual” in the trio. Indeed not only does he absolutely look the part for how a rock star in the late 80s and early 90s should look, but he finds a likability and a relatability that really aids the audience in empathizing with just what these guys are going through since Sandler and Buscemi are dealing with more of the proverbial “lame brained” comedic ingredients though they do so terrifically. Finally it should also be noted that this movie is filled to the brim with a delightful line-up of secondary and minor characters that are all portrayed by quite the talent. Indeed everyone from Joe Mantegna, Ernie Hudson, Judd Nelson, David Arquette, to the late, but something truly special Chris Farley find themselves getting to play in this sandbox and yet not a single one of them phone in their performance. Rather they all treat this material with the same amount of ease and relaxation as the three leads and they all provide truly delightful turns in this no matter how big or small their role turns out to be.

All in all I think it is a relatively safe bet to make with you movie goers that although Airheads most likely will not be remembered by the vast majority of the movie going public as a comedic masterpiece in the vein of American Pie, Airplane, The Naked Gun, Monty Python, or even This is Spinal Tap, I still think you should know that this is nevertheless an astonishingly well-constructed film largely due to how it manages to remain on focus at all times. Of course the fact that this is also a film that manages to also be a winning showcase for the belief that sometimes doing things as simple as possible truly is best doesn’t hurt either. Indeed at the end of the day, movie lovers Airheads is no more and no less than both a straightforward film and a delightful example of no brain power really necessary here cinema that should please the audience who cherishes these kinds of films. Plus we also are given a cast, spearheaded by a terrific Brendan Fraser that is absolutely wonderful both in name value and in their execution of their respective roles. Suffice it to say then that for what it is Airheads is an absolute delight and one that is definitely worth at least a watch so you can figure out if it truly is your brand of rock and roll or not. On a scale of 1-5 I give Airheads a solid 3 out of 5.