Phew! Casting is complete for the musical version of Mask, premiering at the Pasadena Playhouse. No, not The Mask, the zoot-suited Jim Carey vehicle which foisted Cameron Diaz upon the cinematic world; Mask, the one where Cher was a devoted mother/druggie lady biker and Eric Stoltz was a cranially-disfigured boy who fell in love with a blind girl before dying while still in his teens. (If one of the songs rhymes “Harley” with “Gnarley” I have a gun and it’s loaded.) Alert! For all you fans of “My Two Dads,” Greg Evigan in the show. Line forms outside the stage door for autographs.
But don’t shake your head in shock, Mask is just one of the loooong line of films that has made the (often painful and ill-advised) transition from popcorn fare to the proscenium. The ever-growing list includes such silver screen gems as The First Wives Club, Grumpy Old Men, and Soapdish, lining up to take their place alongside Cry Baby, Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer, and on and on. I’m totally giving a pass to Nine to Five; Dolly can do no wrong.
Still, as Broadway producers obsessively troll IMDb for the next nostalgia property to adequately musicalize, here are some 80’s movies that I covet and hope never get rejiggered for the matinee crowd. Hands off producers! (Yes these skew towards comedic fare, but that is where my loyalty lies.)
- Three Amigos. The comedy western featuring a trio of inept silent film actors who end up having to prove their mettle and save a Mexican village from the clutches of the bandit El Guapo. With songs by Randy Newman and mariachi costumes, it practically screams adapt me for the stage. Don’t! Resist! Even though it has a hero quest, romantic subplots and a dynamic, cartoonish villain, it should not be done. Not even Kathleen Marshall can make a “Sew Like the Wind” sewing machine dance sequence work.
- Top Secret! It’s basically a musical anyway. Look, there’s already an exclamation point in the title. That screams “musical”! The Zucker brothers’ spoof about American pop singer Nick Rivers, who travels to East Germany only to be embroiled in a (anachronistic) struggle between the Nazis and the French Resistance is a dumb-fun romp, featuring pastiche songs that ape Brian Wilson and Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, none of the sight gags would translate. And the boner ballet sequence might offend some blue hairs.
- Weird Science. Having already suffered an ill-fated TV series, it’s not likely to survive the transition to tune-filled razzle-dazzler. The ne plus ultra of computer nerd wish-fulfillment films, which ushered Kelly LeBrock into the canon of wankdom, relies too heavily on special effects. Also, no one needs to see a second act number belched out by a heavily-prosthetic-ed Chet while he tries to catch flies with his distended, toad-like tongue.
- Outrageous Fortune. The female-bonding flick is about two wanna-be actresses that find out they’re dating the same man, who also happens to be a KGB agent. The hilarity ensues in a cross-country chase to find their mutual love and the ladies eventually form a lasting friendship (and even perform on stage together). While the theater loves nothing more than musicals about theater-people, and the hoary old KGB trope could certainly be updated to reflect our current war on terror, producers would be better off just making Thelma & Louise the musical.
- Better Off Dead. The cult black comedy which starred John Cusak as a suicidal teenager whose confidence is bolstered by his burgeoning romance with a French foreign exchange student. The music-heavy movie does have a quirky/interesting soundtrack, but does anyone really want a “Gee, I’m really sorry you’re mom blew up, Ricky” song? Okay, maybe for a second but ultimately no.
After the jump, the animated burger fantasy sequence from Better Off Dead, music by Van Halen.