Midnight Madness (1980)

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Five teams are in for the night of their lives in this Disney film that would mark the debut of two familiar faces today.

Leon, a college student, has come up with an idea for an all-night scavenger hunt which he calls “The Great All-Nighter”. He has picked five of his classmates to play the team leaders of this game. They are debate club leader Wesley, sorority leader Donna, football team captain Levitas, lazy rich boy Harold, and student counselor Adam. At first, the five laugh off Leon’s idea for the game. However, Leon is convinced that they will end up playing the game and his premonition proves correct when a series of events cause the five to become the leaders.

Harold looks to get even with Adam because Harold’s father is tired of his lazy son being upstaged by him. Wesley and Donna find a common enemy in Levitas, whose football team has caused ire with both of them. Adam is unconvinced until his fellow counselor and crush Laura thinks it would be a good idea for Adam to play the game. As the game begins, Leon finds himself in hot water with his landlord, who despises him because of his being a student and vows to evict him if there is one more complaint. However, soon enough Leon’s determination leads his neighbors to join him and root for the teams as this is one night nobody will ever forget.

Who would have ever thought Disney would have released a film about an all-night scavenger hunt between college students? Well, take the notion that for some of their live action films, the use of college students would have adventures in the form of the Dexter Riley trilogy starring Kurt Russell in the seventies, it was time to update to the eighties, where Disney began making PG-rated films such as The Black Hole and the live action Popeye movie. Written and directed by the duo of David Wechter and Michael Nankin, the film is actually a fun adventure that will make you root for basically one team while the story does focus on all five teams.

The title not only refers to the madness the five teams endure as they play the game, but in a bold move, the film also shows the craziness and support from game master Leon. At first, it looks like Leon may have had his number up when his neighbors start to complain about the noise from his apartment. However, once they learn what he is doing, they are not only supportive, but it gets to a point where the neighbors all go to Leon’s apartment and get involved in the game, which incurs the wrath of the building landlord. It gets to a point where even the police find themselves involved with what Leon is involved with in a positive manner.

Before his breakout role as the titular American Werewolf in London, David Naughton plays the good-natured Adam, leader of the Yellow team. He serves as a mentor to teammate Flynch, a nerdy freshman played by Joel Kenney. However, Adam shows while he has good intentions, he does have a bit of a dark side when it comes to his relationship with little brother Scott, played by Michael J. Fox in his film debut. Meanwhile, Stephen Furst’s blue team leader Harold has every intention of getting the best of Adam and also incurring the wrath of his girlfriend when he hides food to break his diet. A special kudos goes to future director Andy Tennant, who is hilarious to watch as Harold’s best friend and comic relief Melio.

What’s better than one Eddie Deezen? What about four near-lookalikes of the nerdy-like actor, who make up the debate team, who sport white while future Simpsons voice actress Maggie Roswell’s red team leader Donna finds herself at times in trouble with her twin teammates but find support with martial arts fighting Beryl, played by Robyn Petty. As for the green team, who dub themselves “The Meat Machine”, Brad Wilkin does well as team leader, but the highlight comes in Dirk Blocker’s Blaylack, who is at his funniest when the teams go to the Pabst Blue Ribbon factory as part of the game.

Aside from Michael J. Fox, the other familiar face making his film debut is Paul Reubens, who gained fame in the 80’s as the childlike Pee Wee Herman. Reubens has a small role as the cowboy-sporting proprietor of a local video game arcade. The film would go on to become an influence on various cities as to this day, people actually have their own “all-night” scavenger hunts.

Midnight Madness is truly a fun adventure that not only shows the players in the game, but even the people who come in full support of their neighbor, the game master. A wonderful young cast drives the film and makes this one Disney film worth checking out.

WFG RATING: B+

A Walt Disney Pictures presentation. Directors: David Wechter and Michael Nankin. Producer: Ron Miller. Writers: David Wechter and Michael Nankin. Cinematography: Frank Phillips. Editing: Norman R. Palmer and Jack Sekely.

Cast: David Naughton, Debra Clinger, David Damas, Michael J. Fox, Joel Kenney, Stephen Furst, Andy Tennant, Patrice Alice Albright, Brian Frishman, Sal Lopez, Maggie Roswell, Robyn Petty, Betsy Lynn Thompson, Carol Gwynn Thompson, Eddie Deezen, Marvin Katzoff, Christopher Sands, Michael Gitomer, Brad Wilkin, Dirk Blocker, Curt Ayers, Trevor Henley, Keny Long, Alan Solomon, Irene Tedrow, Deborah Richter, Kirsten Baker, Paul Reubens.

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