Tapeheads (1988) — Menudo and Motown

“You, you’ve got no ambition! You’re content just existing! You need what I’ve got, brother.” “Herpes?”

Clare’s rating: Two out of two swanky modes.

Clare’s review: Tapeheads is juvenile. It’s kinda gross. There’s poop jokes and sex jokes and lots of T and A.

Basically, it’s a masterpiece.

But seriously folks. Tapeheads is the age-old tale of two best friends who get fired from their crappy jobs and with nothing to lose try to make it big as video directors. The story isn’t really that important since it’s the parade of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sight gags, cameos, and in-jokes that really keep the movie, well, moving. Tim Robbins and John Cusack play the two best friends, Ivan and Josh, and their friendship appears to be 100% genuine (not that there’s much that’s genuine about this very tongue and cheek script).

Josh (Robbins) is the creative force of the production company (Video Aces) while Ivan (Cusack) is the one who does the leg work to get them gigs — any gigs — on their slow road to fame and fortune. Add to this a motown duo called the Swanky Modes who Ivan and Josh idolize, a high level politician’s tawdry bedroom habits, a customer who dies in the middle of filming his “living” will, and the fact that Menudo actually plays a key role in these shenanigans and you get the overall picture.

This film is cameo city. Try to stay with me here. Motown legends Sam Moore and Junior Walker are the Swanky Modes. Then there’s Don “Soul Train” Cornelius as the record exec who gives Video Aces their big break and Lyle Alzado as Thor. Throw in a little Sy Richardson, Martha Quinn, Bobcat Goldthwait, Jello Biafra (in a role that will surprise you!!), Weird Al Yankovic, Ted Nugent, Doug E. Fresh, Michael Nesmith (ex-Monkee and executive producer of this fine film) and Fishbone (playing a band called Ranchbone) for good measure then top it off with, a little Courtney Love action in there somewhere for added flavor, chill, and serve.

The soundtrack is also who’s who of bands I love. There’s a bunch of Swanky Modes stuff that’s real smooth and cool (real life Motown Legends — yes that’s their official title — Sam Moore and Junior Walker are truly worthy of all the praise they get in this film). In contrast to this there’s tracks by old school punk bands The Circle Jerks (yahoo!), Fishbone (yeehaw!), the Dead Kennedys (oh yeah!) and everyone’s favorite can’t fit them into a category band They Might Be Giants (woo hoo!). Plus a Devo song is covered at length by fake band Cube Squared.

The one liners, zings and witty repartee of Tapeheads fly at a furious pace and really you can’t help but root for these two idiots as they make their way to the big time.

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