Friday, December 12, 2014

Heavenly Bodies - 1984

"Heavenly Bodies" - 1984
Dir. by Lawrence Dane - 1 hr. 30 min.

Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I don't think I've ever seen a film that was comprised solely of aerobics scenes and montages before.  Sure, there might be another film with only those elements, but I haven't seen it.  Until "Heavenly Bodies," that is.  It's a fair question to ask why I'd watch a film that seems solely about a battle between aerobics instructors, but it sounded funny, it was late at night, and a film with wall-to-wall spandex-clad, leg-warmer brandishing '80s hotties is all the explanation you need.  I knew this would be a terrible film, and it was, but the question is whether it's so terrible that it rebounds back into awful-but-watchable territory?

Samantha Blair (Cynthia Dale) and a couple of her buddies from the steno pool get tired of clocking in for the man, and decide to open their own Dancercise studio (probably off-brand, to be honest) in a dilapidated factory, to be called "Heavenly Bodies."  But, because Samantha is so good at shaking her goodies, she eventually wins a local fitness TV show, beating out rival gym owner Jack Pearson's (Walter George Alton) squeeze, Debbie (Laura Henry).  As it turns out, Debbie is a jealous, conniving little workout queen, and convinces a financier to buy out the factory that Heavenly Bodies is located in, and evict Samantha and her business.  Samantha isn't going to take that lying down, and challenges Jack to an exercise-off, winner takes all.

"Heavenly Bodies" is absolutely bonkers.  There's the aforementioned aerobics/montage approach, which is pretty odd.  So Samantha's burgeoning relationship with football player Steve (Richard Rebiere) doesn't have a ton of depth to it.  That's okay, because Samantha literally can't stop dancing.  Like all the damned time.  When she's introduced to her TV show's studio, she breaks into dance.  When Steve won't call, she does a mopey interpretive dance.  And there's like infinity classes that she teaches.  Plus, the climactic exercise-off, which features two teams of ten endurance aerobicizing their tight little buns off.  Samantha probably spends at least fifty of the ninety minutes of this film enthusiastically shaking, strutting, thrusting, and punching the air.  And (this is the point where I had GIFs to illustrate my point), when she's pent up, she starts humping the air (in unison with the rest of her class).  And her dancing is baffling; my impression of Dancercise is that you do some basic dance-y moves, and then the class repeats them until you're all sweaty.  But Samantha does all of her stuff free-form, so I don't know how her class knows how to keep up with her.  But they do.  All of them, all of the time, from air-punching to air-humping, they always get it right.

But you should know, yes, this does turn the corner.  It's a bizarre film centered around a woman who exercises really good and stuff, with awful music and non-stop dancing.  But between the abundance of leg-warmers and running shorts on men (and even more dubious fashion choices), and the sheer enthusiasm of Cynthia Dale (I'm not going to short-change her - she puts a lot of effort and grace into what she's doing, even if it's super-bizarre), "Heavenly Bodies" is like three beers or a bowl (bowl of what?  I don't know!!!  What are you, a cop?  You've got to tell me if you're a cop!!!) away from being one of the best awful films you'll ever see.  In term of just getting ninety minutes of '80s fitness cuties (and hunks, too), it completely delivers.  Crazy dialogue?  Scheming hoes?  Workout icons that apparently have never seen a weight-bench before?  "Heavenly Bodies" gives you all of this and more.

When I finished watching "Heavenly Bodies," my first thought is that whomever wrote "Dodgeball" must've seen this film, and pretty much "Airplane!'d" this into that.  Then, my second that was that if people will watch movies to see Jean-Claude Van Damme kick people in the face (and, historically speaking, they have), maybe it's not so weird to watch a movie solely for a physical performance.  In martial arts movies, that means fight scenes, but Cynthia Dale gives that little extra oomph in her dance scenes (you can see this if you compare her dancing to the other dancers that are in her scenes) that actually makes her performance impressive, from an athletic standpoint.  It doesn't make "Heavenly Bodies" any better of a film than "Double Impact," but I could understand why someone might be able to enjoy it in a different way than I did (which was admittedly at least slightly maybe a little okay more than a little prurient).  I'm completely baffled as to why this film got aired on Turner Classic, but I laughed my way all the way through.  So while this is officially "not a good movie," it's pretty awesome in it's own way.

1 / 5 - TV

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