Ha ha!

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Wednesday 18 January 2023

Burl reviews Zapped!! (1983)


Bzzzztt, it’s Burl here with some science psycho-pervations for you! Ha ha, here we have a precursor to the science wizard pictures of the mid-80s, like Weird Science and My Science Project, or the more reality-based (and better) The Manhattan Project; and of course a descendant of the Dexter Riley movies of the decade before, of which The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes is an example recently reviewed! But here we have a movie that started out with the innocence of a Dexter Riley movie, or even a Flubber and Shaggy Dog-era Disney picture, but, in the wake of Porky’s, was garnished with some extra boobs and bums to bring it up to 80s code! Yes, I’m talking about Zapped!!

Ha ha, it’s always nice to review a movie that comes with its own exclamation point! Zapped! is the story of nerdly-but-dreamy school science wizard Barney Springboro, played by Cha-Chi himself, Scott Baio, well known for being The Boy Who Drank Too Much, and, more recently, for being a bit of a right-wing loon! As the movie opens he’s got mice swimming around in diving suits for some reason, and we learn that he’s growing special orchids for the school principal, played by Robert Mandan, the super familiar-looking guy from The Carey Treatment, and growing special mary-hoo-wanna for his best buddy Peyton, played by crinkle-haired Willie Aames from Paradise! Peyton is a strange amalgam of types: a horndog party animal who’s also a spoiled rich kid, and also, I gather, supposed to be sort of an unpopular nerd! I guess they just had him be whatever they felt was convenient for the movie in any given moment, ha ha!   

Felice Schachter is a nosy teen newshound called Bernadette who always wants to report on whatever Cha-Chi is up to with his science! What he’s most recently up to is falling victim to a lab accident that gives him Carrie-style psychokinesis, and when Peyton finds out about the power, he immediately enlists Cha-Chi to help him win first a baseball game, and then against the frat house boys in casino gambling! This causes complications and confusions, because at the same time, Cha-Chi and Bernadette are becoming fond of each other, and Bernadette strongly disapproves of the gambling; while meantime Peyton is trying his best with Jane, the randomly flatulent queen of the campus played by Heather Thomas from Red Blooded American Girl, who is dating Greg Bradford from Lovelines, the usual blond BMOC quasi-fascist and head of the casino frat house! Ha ha, phew, it’s a situation so complicated I had to use a run-on sentence to describe it!

Also meanwhile, Miss Burnhart, played by Sue Ann Langdon from Without Warning, is trying to make time with the principal and also to bust Cha-Chi for weed cultivation! And Cha-Chi’s prune juice-guzzling dad, played by Roger Bowen from M*A*S*H and Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home, is sleeping through everything, and his mom, essayed by Mews Small from Sleeper, stays awake, terrified, believing her son possessed by the devil and recruiting priests to exorcise him after his powers have been revealed to her in the form of a flying ventriloquist’s dummy!

Barney’s other friend is Dexter the baseball coach, played by the great Scatman Crothers from The King of Marvin Gardens and The Shining! Ha ha, it’s always nice to see him! LaWanda Page from Mausoleum plays Dexter’s wife, and is the main antagonist in an insane hophead dream Dexter has when he’s exposed to big billows of pot smoke from the furnace: he goes bicycling with Albert Einstein and chatting about relativity, until suddenly his wife comes thundering along in a chariot, dressed as Attila the Hun, bellowing threats and firing pork products at him from a bazooka!

Ha ha, and there are plenty of other familiar faces in the margins! We get Jewel Shepard from Raw Force and The Return of the Living Dead; “Boof” from Teen Wolf makes a small appearance; and there’s even a walk on from I Wanna Hold Your Hand’s Eddie Deezen, who wears a driving cap, a cardigan, a bowtie, and a shirt that reads “God’s Gift to Women,” and only sticks around long enough to accuse his friend of constant masturbation!

It sounds like I’ve been describing a parade of nonstop delights, but I’ve got to report the shocking truth: it’s not a good movie, ha ha! Sure, Cha-Chi makes dresses fly up and cardigans come apart with the power of his mind, but on the other hand Cha-Chi makes dresses fly up and cardigans come apart with the power of his mind, and it’s just all so stupid! The character of Peyton, meanwhile, is so smarmy you could spread him on toast! My goodness, what a self-satisfied, smirky, misguidedly entitled nougat he is! But you can’t argue with that supporting cast, and it does seem like a Dexter Riley movie with sleaze, which is in theory a really appealing concept! But of all the Zapped!s you could imagine might result from that concoction, the Zapped! we got would be well at the low end of those expectations! I give it one tiny scuba suit!


  1. One tiny scuba suit! I'm gonna have to watch this again. You can tell they added the nudity afterwards.

    My Willie Aames story: We once lived in the same town. I heard that he was having a garage sale. But I didn't go! Imagine I could have scored some hot Bibleman swag!

    1. He lived in your town? Ha ha, I guess he was easy to find - just open to the first page of the phone book! And yes, you should have hit up his garage sale, in case maybe he had one of those little scuba suits for sale, or at least some good records!

    2. With my luck, I'd end up with his used loincloth from Paradise . . .

    3. Ha ha! You could put it out as a washcloth when you have houseguests, and only reveal its provenance after they're out of the shower!