Totally Awesome (2006) — An ’80s encore by VH1

“Dancing is my life! DANCING IS MY LIIIIIIFE!”

Justin’s rating: I feel so gnarly…

Justin’s review: The key problem with the ’80s is that it ended. We might well pretend that somewhere, possibly in South Dakota, the ’80s is living on it its spandex-clad, ankle-warming glory, but those are the delusions of slobbering madmen. Sooner or later, we will run out of movies from that decade to review, and then where will we be? Where will VH1 be? Out of a job, destitute, and selling body parts for used DVD copies of Sixteen Candles at the off-ramp of the interstate, that’s where. It’s not a pretty thought.

VH1 happens to be more proactive than you, so it went ahead and made another ’80s teen comedy. No matter that it’s the mid-2000s, no matter that this idea’s been done a few times over in the past 10 years, and no matter that we ’80s lovers weren’t exactly crying out for lame retreads of former glories — VH1 still delivered Totally Awesome. Which it really isn’t, and I can’t even give them a lame clap for trying. I sort of wish they hadn’t.

The conceit of this piece of cinematic artistry is that VH1 and Ben Stein (?) found this long-lost movie in some vault in Arizona, and so we are treated to an ’80s encore. Stein also appears a few times during the movie to “explain” jokes, an event which caused sudden and severe trauma to my brain. It’s a poorly thought-out framing device which is as cool and funny as, well, having anyone explain jokes to you before they happen.

The rest of Totally Awesome plays a straight-faced mishmash of popular 80’s flicks, like Footloose, The Karate Kid, and Better Off Dead. Brother and sister Charlie and Lori move to California (is there any other ’80s state?), where Charlie discovers that he’s a big dork and Lori discovers that dancing is forbidden in her town. There’s a bully, a werewolf, a prom (sort of), big hair, pastels, and a final sports meet where everything is decided in one fell swoop. Lousy overacting abounds like mutated bunny rabbits in mating season, so prepare for amateur TV hour. I suggest placing a thick stick between your teeth so you won’t bite off your own tongue.

A couple of the jokes work, like a “supercomputer” that takes about six hours to do simple multiplication, but it’s not nearly enough. One problem is that a majority of the movie is played fairly straight, with only a winky-winky attitude lurking at the corners of each scene. Mimicking a famous movie isn’t the same as a parody — a parody also has to be pretty funny.

Which brings us to our other problem: others have done retro ’80s in comedy so, so much better (The Wedding Singer, Not Another Teen Movie, or even South Park’s “Aspen” episode). It’s a lame attempt of recalling far better movies, degrading their reputation for anyone who is unfortunate enough to see this movie before the real deal.

Bogus. Totally bogus.


  • Ben Stein… talking about Ferris Bueller… which had a cameo by Ben Stein. The mind reels!
  • The rare “running crotch kick”
  • “DANCING IS MY LIIIIIFE!” Okay, that got a good laugh out of me.
  • The kid with the Devo hat
  • “Tony” Loc rapping “Crazy Stuff”
  • If you ever wondered what happened to Chris Kattan, here you go.
  • Arrgh the bone! The bone!
  • The “small” supercomputer

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