Computer Beach Party (1987) — The glorious saga of Chicken Car

“The real Allison accepts.”

Justin’s rating: Flirting so bad that their parents went back in time to unmake them

Justin’s review: It’s dark days for the party-going residents of… um… The City, as the mayor and a number of lunk-headed cronies are trying to take over the only pristine stretch of beach in… um… The State. As it usually is, this is due to a scramble for sunken treasure.

Will anyone be able to stand in the way of these gnarly dudes? Don’t lose hope, fair viewer, for a pair of suspiciously buff nerds are going to fight for the beach the only way they know how: With sailbuggies, microchips, and MS-DOS. I don’t quite connect with their motivation, however, as the only reason they’re fighting for the beach is that they are deliriously in love with racing sailbuggies on this particular bit of sand.

Such is the intricate depth of Computer Beach Party, a movie that I watched solely on the basis of its title. I just had to witness the intersection of high tech and low tide. And I’m happy to tell you that it’s just as awesome and as terrible as you would expect. It’s important to remember that everyone in the ’80s thought that computers could do anything if you asked them, sort of like genies, so why not throw the biggest rager of all time? Or just stick them in a car’s glovebox and make the car magically zoom faster?

In the midst of this conflict is the budding love story of Allison and Andy, she the mayor’s daughter and he half of the nerdcore set. They fall in love with each other at literally first sight, spending subsequent scenes torturing the audience with dorky dialogue that makes Anakin Skywalker’s approach a role model for seduction.

I do have to warn you that a vast amount of this movie involves incredibly poor ADR of varying sound levels, so good luck trying to find a volume that works for you. But I’d recommend sticking it out, because the sailbuggies at the beginning set off a chain of weirdness that could only exist in this decade. I’m talking about an overly emotional cop who has a grudge match with a speeding chicken car, a computer that has the ability to assemble a guest list for a party in a time before email, lengthy bits with just-OK rock songs by the same band (Panther), a talking dog, and a Goonies-like quest to get a box of treasure to save the day.

I mean, I’m pretty sure that this was just a party that happened to be filmed to justify a budget that went out of control. So many scenes feel ad-libbed by people who seem convinced they’re going to be the next Tom Hanks or Steve Guttenberg, and who can blame them for dreaming that big? At least we got this fever dream recorded for all of posterity.

And a special mention should go to Computer Beach Party’s poster art, which gives me hives from seeing a computer and keyboard covered up with sand and visibly sparking while two idiots make out in front of it. I kind of want this on the wall of my dining room as a conversational centerpiece:

Didja notice?

  • Two seconds of a pirate ship for some reason and then… SUPER COMPUTER FONT CREDITS. Man, that font makes me so nostalgic for the ’80s.
  • These guys are really giddy at driving those sailboat cars down a beach
  • It’s now been five minutes of this “break out BREAK OUT” song and guys whooping as they pilot the sailbuggies
  • Alison and Andy, sitting in a tree
  • “I’m going to check HER out!”
  • “There goes my highly esteemed personal wealth!”
  • Did Horace just say “pokey?”
  • This cop has more temper tantrums than Boss Hogg
  • Wait, you love the girl you just met this morning and had a 45-second interaction with?
  • Computer lingo is not good flirting material
  • That side braid is doing her no favors
  • This movie is 90% ADR
  • The chipmunk bit with the gap-toothed girl. You’ll know it when it kills you.
  • We often used early computers for horoscope
  • Computers in the pre-internet era could stage an entire party by themselves
  • She’s known him one day, so why wouldn’t she change all her college plans for him?
  • You better appreciate our BASIC computer program that drew this blinking heart, because you’re now going to watch it for 30 seconds!
  • One party and they think they won?
  • “Betty Lou!”
  • It’s time to go talk to the NASA astronaut in a bright orange jumpsuit
  • Curse you lifeguard stands! How dare you try to keep us safe!
  • Hope you like long pauses, because this movie has plenty to spare

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