Thursday 17 February 2011

Obscurity Files #41 - Airheads

Seeing as we did a Jennifer Aniston post the other day to tie in with Just Go With It, it seemed only fair that we dug into Adam Sandler's back catalogue too.
Let's take a look at Airheads...

Struggling to find a record contract, the three members of the band The Lone Rangers decide to break into a radio station and get their record played on air. When the equipment fails and destroys their demo tape, lead singer Chazz (Brendan Fraser) must get in touch with his recent ex-girlfriend to bring another copy to the station, but what the band don't realise is that the building is slowly being surrounded by cops and SWAT teams, and they're now in the middle of an accidental hostage crisis.

From Michael Lehmann the director of Heathers, Airheads came rocking onto our screens in 1994, around 18 months after someone saw the success of Wayne's World and came up with a script that could potentially tap into the same market. So, in place of Wayne and Garth we have Brendan Fraser's Chazz, Steve Buscemi's guitarist Rex and Adam Sandler's drummer Pip. Fraser's the straight man of the group, with Buscemi plying his familiarly bitter routine and Sandler acting like the lovable doofus. Whoever thought of casting these guys as a rock group I don't know, but they share a surprising amount of chemistry on screen.

There's some good bits of rock appreciation that may have your inner metalhead willing you to grow your hair long again, but the story's pretty unoriginal, liberally stealing from Dog Day Afternoon and The Blues Brothers. Airheads just can't live up to those comparisons, although some of the dated 1994 references are quite amusing.

Ha! Marky Mark. It's quite a large cast and features some fun cameo's (Lemmy's in there somewhere), but apart from the three band members, no-one's given a lot to do. Michael Richards is always a pleasure to watch, but all his character does is crawl around in the air ducts, John McClane style. He's unfortunately so minor a character that when the film reaches its climax, they don't even bother to explain what happens to him. For all we know he's still in the air ducts now.

The same treatment is given to Chris Farley, the great white hope of SNL in the mid 90's. A castmate of Sandler's, his only other film work at this point was a brief appearance in Coneheads and turning up in Wayne's World 1 & 2. Miscast here as the straight laced Officer Wilson, it would have been a lot more fun to see him on the other side, say in the place of the rather annoying David Arquette, for example. Oh, and if you needed any more proof as to how 90's this film is, at one point Beavis and Butthead call in to the station to slag the band off. Dated? Yeah, just a bit.

It's strange to look back on this film now and see how the three main actors careers have grown and gone off in different directions. Brendan Fraser still appears in comedies every now and then (I think Furry Vengeance counts), but is probably best known as the family friendly action star from The Mummy and Journey To The Center of The Earth. Steve Buscemi has managed to become a highly sought after talent and character actor god through his work with the Coen Brothers, but still finds time to pop up in the films of his good friend and Airheads castmate, Adam Sandler.

Ah yes, Adam Sandler. It's quite obvious that during the making of this film no-one had any idea as to how popular Mr Sandler would become, otherwise they might have given him a better role. Airheads was his first major film role after joining SNL in 1990, but since then his films have gone on to gross just shy of 2 BILLION dollars at the US box office. Not worldwide, just in the US.

Far from a terrible film and despite some nostalgic enjoyment to be taken from it, Airheads is an easily forgettable, throwaway comedy, unfortunately more in keeping with director Michael Lehmann's Hudson Hawk than his greatest hour, Heathers.

Save from obscurity? NO

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