Tag Archives: Mario Van Peebles

Last Resort (1986)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Family takes nightmarish vacation.

George (Charles Grodin) is a Chicago salesmen who loses a major client when he calls him fat, which in-turn costs him his job. Feeling the need to get away from the cold Chicago winter and reassess things he decides to take his family to a tropical island for some much needed r-and-r, but finds the place run by crazy people who house everybody in tiny little cabins. The island is also surrounded by a barbed wire fence due to a civil war going on, which soon has George stuck in the middle of it.

This film was directed by Zane Buzby, who appears here as a abusive summer camp counselor and who has since left the directing profession and devoted her life to brining aid to last surviving members of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, which is a far better way to spend her time than making films like these, which isn’t funny and lacks any type of visual style. Much of the blame for this is the low budget, which makes the movie look cheap right from the start with its stock footage of a Chicago blizzard, the generic music score, and every indoor shot looking quite shadowy as if they weren’t able to afford enough spotlights to give it the properly lighted look. The island setting is bad too looking nothing like an actual island, but instead the brown, sun scorched landscape of a studio backlot.

The story is built around a lot of gags the majority of which aren’t funny, or even slightly original. The concept is the reverse of a National Lampoon’s Family Vacation where Chevy Chase plays the inept father who bungles everything while everyone else around him is normal. Here the father is the normal one and all the other people are nuts, but this doesn’t work as well as the folks behave in such an extremely absurd and obnoxious way that they have no bearing at all to real people and for satire to work it still needs to have some semblance to reality and this thing has none. It’s just insanity for the sake of goofiness with no point to it, which gets old fast.

I’m a big fan of Grodin, but his dry humored, deadpan observations are not put to good use and he ends up getting drowned out by all of the foolishness. I did though at least start to understand why Howard Stern always would accuse him of wearing a wig. To me I never thought he did wear one and Grodin, who disliked Stern immensely as he felt the shock-jock’s humor was too vulgar, would hotly dispute these accusations and even had one segment on his own short-lived talk show during the late 90’s where guests were allowed to tug on his hair just to prove it was natural and wouldn’t come off. However, here for whatever reason it really does appear like some rug plopped onto his skull that doesn’t even fit the dimensions of his head right.

Some of the supporting cast, which consists mainly of yet-to-be-famous, up-and-coming-stars does help a bit. This though does not include Megan Mullally, who plays Grodin’s daughter Jessica, who puts-on a high pitched, squeaky voice that I found really irritating. I did though find Jon Lovitz somewhat amusing as a bartender that can supposedly speak English, but can’t understand anything that Grodin says. Phil Hartman, wearing a blond wig, is a riot as a French gay guy named Jean-Michel who comes-onto Grodin, but my favorite was Mario Van Peebles as a flaming gay man who’s also one the tour guides. Some viewers may complain that his portrayal is too over-the-top and stereotypical, but it’s still campy fun especially at the end when he rips off his wig and suddenly turns into a macho guerrilla soldier freedom fighter.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: May 9, 1986

Runtime: 1 Hour 24 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Zane Buzby

Studio: Concorde Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, Shout Factory TV, Pluto TV, Tubi

Rappin’ (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rapper saves the neighborhood.

John (Mario Van Peebles) has just been released from jail and looking to stay out of trouble while living with his grandmother (Eyde Byrde) and finding a job. He reluctantly gets involved in trying to save his poor neighborhood from a greedy developer (Harry Goz) who wants to turn it into a shopping mall while also dealing with his former girlfriend Dixie (Tasia Valenza) who works for a record label and wants to sign him to a rap record deal.

This film was released at the height of the rap craze with the idea that any movie dealing with the subject would be a sure fire hit no matter how pathetic. Overall it’s as bad as it sounds and maybe even worse. The characters and scenarios are simplistic and contrived while having a family friendly tone to it that turns the rap art form into just another watered-down marketing ploy to get people into the seats.

Van Peebles, who is the son of renown independent filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, is extremely weak in the lead as he has too much of a clean-cut persona and unable to even do his own rapping as it was all dubbed by Master Gee. Valenza is quite cute as the love interest and I liked that they had an interracial relationship without it having to be a source of controversy or attention.  Ice-T can also be seen briefly during a rap audition and looking like he hasn’t aged at all.

The film does have the novelty of showing a ‘dance-off’ between two members of a street gang that is amusingly goofy. The climatic sequence has all the city council members joining in on a group rap and the credits, which is probably my favorite part of the movie, features the majority of the cast, which includes some of the older, white folks, doing their own rapping as their names get scrolled over the screen.

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My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: May 11, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 32Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Joel Silberg

Studio: Cannon Pictures

Available: DVD