Vibes (1988) — Psychics go treasure and love hunting

“Everybody looks brave holding a machinegun.”

Justin’s rating: I’m getting a very strange feeling from this movie…

Justin’s review: As I’ve said before, we have all sorts of weird reasons why we pick up movies to watch. In this case, it was the fact that I noticed that in TV’s Community, Abed had a Vibes poster on his dorm room wall alongside some other fun cult classics. Since I’d never heard of this, it prompted me to check it out for myself. Plus, it has Cyndi Lauper, and when’s the last time YOU got to say, “Hey, I watched a Cyndi Lauper movie yesterday!”

Also, allegedly this film was pitched as “Romancing the Ghostbusters in the Temple of Doom,” and how can you ignore that?

I vaguely recall that ESP and psychic abilities were all the rage in the ’80s, so I can see why this was attempted, but it’s still a weird one. Jeff Goldblum is Nick, a psychic who has the ability to tell the history of items from touching them. He meets Sylvia (Lauper), a medium with a comic spirit guide. Naturally, the two will get wrapped up in an adventure that will fling them to Ecuador — and perhaps into each other’s arms — as they race to find a lost city of gold. If movies are to be believed, there are scores of lost cities of gold in Central and South America, so finding just one of them shouldn’t be that much of a problem.

Shot mostly on location, Vibes feels at times like you’ve gone on a vacation to another country (or at least, an EPCOT pavilion) with some light laughs, light thrills, and pretty scenery. And if you were to go on vacation, why not with Jeff Goldblum, Cyndi Lauper, and Peter Falk? There are worse companions for a trip to the unknown.

While the psychic angle is an unusual way to approach an adventure romcom, whatever, it could work. Could work, that is, with the proper acting and chemistry. Goldblum is usually pretty good, but here he talks as if everything he’s saying was sarcastic even though it’s supposed to be earnest. And Lauper offers this gullible nasally ditz that I suspect was not too far from her actual personality. They’re somewhat entertaining to watch, but believable as characters or love interests? Not a chance.

Vibes tries the approach of mixing together a cocktails of various genres in the hopes of a wide appeal. Again, it could work, but when it doesn’t, such projects end up being like overwatered soup — thin and lacking that hardy appeal that you’d like to fill your belly. I mean, if you fish around in the bowl a lot, you might find a few delightful morsels, and such it is in this movie. But it’s not going to make for a satisfying meal.

Man, I’m hungry.

Didja notice?

  • A baseball-playing chimp
  • It’s not a good idea to have a con game outside of a psychic lab
  • Nothing like having the grandpa from Princess Bride show up in your apartment in the middle of the night
  • Don’t make cracks about Sylvia’s hair
  • Steve Buscemi!

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