by David Cornelius
So you’re in the mood for a little Gilbert and Sullivan, but you also want dick jokes, Christopher Atkins, and a cartoon fish. What you need, my friend, is “The Pirate Movie,” the 1982 rock musical debacle that fed into my pre-puberty obsession with Kristy McNichol by running on HBO a good seven or eight times a day back when HBO had nothing better to show.Looking back, I must have really had it for McNichol, for why else would I endure this cinematic abomination with such enthusiasm? Why would I want to waste an hour and a half of my day looking at Christopher Atkins? Why would I sit through so much awful, awful music?
"Christopher Atkins is in it. I rest my case."
And so I watched “The Pirate Movie” again, now as an adult, and yeah, I still have a thing for Kristy McNichol. She’s quite good here, actually, showing a knack for comic timing and even a decent singing voice. Too bad she spent her movie career churning out duds like “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia” and “Just the Way You Are,” not to mention the infamously creepy jail bait feature “Little Darlings.” Oh, she was fine on “Empty Nest,” considering that it was, after all, “Empty Nest,” and word is she was good in the Neil Simon flick “Only When I Laugh,” which I have not yet seen. But come on. She’s cute as a button and smart as a whip, and she deserved a better filmography than one that lists “The Pirate Movie” as a box office high point.
The point of the movie was to remake Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic “The Pirates of Penzance” for the post-disco pop crowd - keep a few classic tunes, introduce plenty of new songs, and cash in on the popularity of its two young stars. Director Ken Annakin (no Vader jokes, please) and screenwriter Trevor Farrant thought it best to make the comedy as broad and as lewd as possible (within the confines of a PG rating); they thought it would be a hoot to end it all not with a pie fight, but with a pizza pie fight, ha ha. It’s a scene that tries to out-“wacky” the finale of the 1967 “comedy” “Casino Royale,” and it’s painful stuff. Truly, ceaselessly, achingly painful stuff.
The film stars the waste of space that is Christopher Atkins, sporting a ridiculously awful Justin Guarini-level white boy afro as Frederic (“without a ‘k’”), an orphan who was raised by pirates and who has now, through a sense of righteousness, decided to bring his pillaging shipmates to justice. Thrown overboard, he comes across McNichol as Mabel (“also without a ‘k’” - enjoy it, it’s the movie’s only good joke), and the two instantly fall in love. They team up to fight the Pirate King (a disturbingly campy Ted Hamilton), a villain who insists on spouting the worst double entendres on record (“You’ll be hung,” Mabel threatens; the King replies, “Oh, I am, I am, very well, thank you”). You can see in Hamilton’s eyes that he thinks this stuff is funny, which is, of course, quite sad.
Anyway, the whole thing’s a movie-long dream had by modern day Mabel, a nerdish type who carries one of those 1980s boom boxes, the kind that required fourteen “D” batteries and weighed the same as a linebacker for the Detroit Lions. The movie begins with Mabel clumsily meeting Atkins, who’s doing a fencing demonstration for some lameass local festival called “Pirate Week.”
Through plot points too moronic to repeat here, she winds up in the middle of the ocean during a storm, which capsizes her and leaves her to wash up, unconscious, on some nameless shore.
Then all the pirate dream stuff happens, with all them dick jokes (Frederic’s telescope gets longer when he sees a group of women - har!) and lousy songs (one tune, “Pumpin’ and Blowin’,” is so incredibly bad I’m surprised Madonna didn’t write it) and horrid pop culture references (including not one, but two jokes about “Star Wars,” including, I kid you not, a lightsaber appearance). And then (spoiler alert! - as if it matters) she wakes up on the beach, a wretched song called “Happy Ending” still buzzing in the distance. Then that jackass Atkins shows up out of nowhere and begins making out with My Beloved Kristy McNichol.
Now, imagine how terrifying that must have been, waking up in a strange place with that blonde afro-wearing nimrod sticking his tongue down your throat. It sure gave me the willies, but then, the mere sight of Christopher Atkins making out with anybody is enough to produce a particularly nasty tasting vomit-burp.
But does Mabel mind? Nope - the damn “Happy Ending” song kicks up again and they’re off to Makeoutsville, population: creepy. And then the song fades out, and the credits begin, and... that damn “Happy Ending” song starts again!!! Is there no relief? (The song remains stuck in my head to this day, like some unstoppable doomsday machine.)
“The Pirate Movie” also includes a blatant rip-off of the Inspector Clouseau character, a cringe-worthy rewriting of William Gilbert’s famous lyrics to “Modern Major General” (the new words include mentions of Bo Derek, the Rolling Stones, and erections), a segment that has Atkins running into guitar-playing cartoon fish, and forced sight gags that would make Mel Brooks say “dude, that’s a bit much, ain’t it?”
But nothing in this film will piss you off as much as Atkins himself, who again proves himself to be a no-talent tool whose Carson Daly-esque blank smile stare suggests there’s less going on upstairs than any of us could possibly imagine. He stumbles over every piece of dialogue he’s asked to recite, and on several occasions, his character actually barks at his enemies. And on top of all that, he slobbers all over Kristy McNichol.Oh, the humanity.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9949&reviewer=392
originally posted: 03/22/05 13:50:07