Vibes (1988) dir. Ken Kwapis
Starring: Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Falk, Julian Sands, Michael Lerner
Guest Review By Greg Klymkiw
At some point in the development of this property, there might have actually been something resembling a good movie waiting to get made, but this dull, clumsy romantic comedy without laughs and dollops of “Indiana Jones” and “Romancing The Stone” is one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had to endure in my many long years of slavish devotion to ingesting as many movies as humanly possible.
The movie that should have been good involves two psychics – one male and one female, with very different and ultra complimentary extra sensory skills who meet cute in a parapsychology lab and find themselves thrust together on a dangerous journey/mission and in the process, solve a mystery, nail the bad guys and fall in love. On the surface, this is, indeed, what happens, but alas the journey as rendered by director Ken Kwapis and the overrated screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (“Night Shift”), requires the audience to nail its collective feet to the floor in order to actually sit through the picture in order to live to tell about it. The aforementioned simple storyline is a solid enough narrative coat hanger, but one needs a bit more than that to make a good movie.
First of all, one needs some cool shit to actually adorn the coat hanger with and the famed screenwriting duo do little more than dress it with the most dire, hackneyed events as the couple journey to a Latin American hell hole in order to help a crusty old rascal locate his missing son and find instead that they’re being used for more nefarious purposes.
An even greater sin is that the characters do little but exist beyond the status of cardboard cutouts. The male psychic has the ability to touch inanimate objects and both feel and see the people and events that have also touched the same objects. Not a bad idea, but the writers do little beyond using it as a mere and rather clunky device to move the story ever so conveniently forward. The female psychic is saddled with something far less interesting – she is endowed with a living voice in her head that imparts sage advice for her to impart, in turn, to others. This particular ability kind of renders the character as relatively passive and even the relationship between her and the voice in her head is not explored/exploited beyond being the most rudimentary of storytelling devices.
The less said about Kwapis’ lame, unexciting direction the better. He does little more than cover the action in the most basic manner. It’s vaguely conceivable that a director with some visual style might have rendered this tedious script with enough life to keep it at least watchable, but Kwapis, being a TV hack, is unable to do even this. Not that it’s surprising. One need only turn to the sort of feature work Kwapis did long after this film was made (“The Beautician and the Beast”, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and He’s Just Not That Into You”) and realize that he’s only as good as the material he gets and even then, like a Garry Marshall and others of that loathsome lack-of-style ilk, he can’t turn excrement to gold and he most certainly has it in him to turn gold into excrement. Worst of all, he basically makes mediocre television for the big screen and there’s nothing more annoying than that.
Finally, there is the matter of casting. Jeff Goldblum as the male psychic is ALWAYS worth watching. His handsome, yet geeky facial features, his lanky physique and those magnificent bright eyes come close to carrying him unscathed through the mess that is “Vibes”. Alas, Goldblum must share screen time with one of the most loathsome leading ladies ever to find her way onto a movie set.
Pop star Cyndi Lauper, five years after she recorded the hit girlie anthem “Girls Just Wanna’ Have Fun”, was shoe horned into this film and she attacks her role with all the grace of a hippopotamus. In what possible world did anyone think that she was going to be even remotely palatable on a big screen? Needless to say, when a romantic comedy displays absolutely no chemistry between the leads, not even an eminently watchable figure like Jeff Goldblum can remain untarnished.
Finally, while it’s always fun to watch Peter Falk at his trademark crusty and crotchety best, he’s not in his finest form here and he really does seem to be sleepwalking through this picture, dreaming no doubt about his pay cheque.
“Vibes” is a perfectly abhorrent affair. I dare you to watch it without clutching, for dear life, to an airsickness bag.
“Vibes” is currently available on the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD label as part of their “Martini Movies” brand, which seems like a convenient way to lump a grab bag of catalogue titles under one banner. Alas, the banner makes no sense whatsoever with respect to the vast majority of films contained under it.