Get ready for a major retro trip. America’s favorite beach couple of the 1960’s, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello return for this fun time of a ride as they embark on a return to their old hangout, where things have changed 80’s style. However, as the saying goes, some things never die…and why should they?
The 1960’s were a fun time where Frankie and Annette were the most popular teenagers in America. Frankie, known as the Big Kahuna, was an expert surfer while Annette was a beauty queen known for her singing and well manner. After a surfing accident, the Big Kahuna retired and married Annette. They live in Ohio where he runs a car dealership and she is a stay at home mom to punk teenager Bobby.
After an overdose of stress, the family decides to take a vacation. En route to Hawaii, they decide to go to L.A. to see daughter Sandy. For the first time in twenty years, Frankie and Annette are going “back to the beach” (hence the title). They learn Sandy is engaged to local surfer Michael and despite his initial reaction, Frankie bonds with Michael. Meanwhile, Bobby gets into a local surf gang led by the crazy Zed. Annette’s envy begins to grow when Frankie is seen hanging out with old friend Connie. Can everyone get together just in time and what will happen when Zed challenges the Big Kahuna to a surf contest for control of the beach?
As a fan of the classic 60’s beach films like Beach Fever and Beach Blanket Bingo to name a few, this reviewer just loved seeing Frankie Avalon surf the waves and of course, the endless rivalry between Annette Funicello and some other girl for his affections. Flash forward to this 1980’s revival of the classic beach movie. The same themes are there, and surprisingly, it still works well. Frankie and Annette still have that chemistry that made them one of the most popular cinematic duos of the 1960’s.
This film will truly attract fans of the classic films as well as perhaps bring in a new generation of fans. There are cameos galore in the film that pleasantly drive the film. Legendary guitar player Dick Dale, who appeared in a few of the original films, makes a welcome return complete with 80’s metal hair. He even gets in on joining the late Stevie Ray Vaughan on stage. Playing the bartender at the local club is none other than Bob Denver, who is credited as the Bartender, but seeing him, you know he’s playing his classic character of Gilligan. Don Adams, known for playing Maxwell Smart in the original Get Smart, plays the Harbormaster and even dishes his trademark line, “Missed it by that much”.
The story is pretty simplistic but it is still fun to see that some things don’t really have to change. The musical numbers are a delight from Annette’s Jamaica Ska with band Fishbone to Pee Wee Herman’s take on’ Surfin Bird. This all leads to the cast culminating in the finale musical number, which is quite a delight.
So what if the Big Kahuna has a “hair helmet”? So what if Annette is cheery practically all the time? Despite its campy flavor, Back to the Beach is an enjoyable retro trip from the 1960’s to the 1980’s in full beach movie fashion.
WFG RATING: B+
A Paramount Pictures production. Director: Lyndall Hobbs. Producer: Frank Mancuso, Jr. Writers: Peter Krikes, Steve Meerson, and Chris Thompson; story by James Komack, B.W.L. Norton, and Bruce Kirschbaum; based on the characters created by Lou Rusoff. Cinematography: Bruce Surtees. Editing: David Finfer.
Cast: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Lori Loughlin, Tommy Hinkley, Demian Slade, Connie Stevens, Joe Holland, John Calvin, David Bowe, Laura Urstein, Linda Carol, Don Adams, Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr.