Friday 12 April 2013

Obscurity Files - The Heavenly Kid

A movie released in 1985 that concerns a cool kid from one time travelling to another to teach a nerd how to get the girl? No, not that movie, this one.

When "teenager" Bobby (Lewis Smith) dies in a chicken drag race that sees him end up at the bottom of a cliff, he travels to the afterlife only to find out he's not quite made his way into heaven yet. After being stuck in limbo for ages, he returns to Earth in 1985 to act as the guardian angel to nerd Lenny (Jason Gedrick). Bobby's task is to bring Lenny out of his shell and teach him how to get girls by using the same techniques he used to use, and then maybe he can find his way into Heaven.

On first appearances you would think that this is a crass attempt to cash in on the success of 1985's time travel classic Back to the Future, as it bares some startling thematic similarities to both that, and to some extent Teen Wolf; the film (also 1985) that was kept on the shelf to be released in the wake of BTTF's massive success. The Heavenly Kid was in actual fact released into cinemas a mere three weeks after Back to the Future, so it is slightly unfair to make that negative assumption, although when The Heavenly Kid was released in Germany, it bore the title Zuruck aus der Vergangenheit; which I'm sure I don't need to tell you translates to Back From The Past.

You may notice on the poster that it states that Bobby originated in the '60s, despite the fact that in a clear nod to James Dean's 1955 classic Rebel Without A Cause, he is dressed like a '50s greaser and dies after driving over a cliff in a game of chicken. This confusing time paradox can be put down to the film's big revelation, which I am going to reveal now and not really care about it, because it's stupid.

You see, not only is Lenny the son of Bobby's high school girlfriend, he is also Bobby's son too. Given that Lenny appears to be around 17 (Jason Gedrick was 20 when the film was released), this confusing detail throws the whole film into a spin. Maybe Bobby died in 1968 after an unmentioned 1950's costume party, or maybe Lenny has bigger problems than we first thought, and is actually 30 years old and still waiting to graduate from high school?

Oh, and Bobby's ex-girlfriend/Lenny's mother is played by Jane Kaczmarek, the infamous matriarch of Malcolm in the Middle, who at the ripe old age of 30 should be insulted that she was cast as a woman who either, has a 30 year old son or who was pregnant at the age of 13 by a Fonzie lookalike with a cool car.

Anyways, as you might expect, with Bobby's guidance Lenny soon becomes the most popular kid in school, getting the cool blonde chick when the much more appropriate brunette best friend is standing right there (hello Teen Wolf) and driving around in a car that Bobby makes from scrap metal and angel magic, which he apparently has.

There's many things in The Heavenly Kid that should consign it to history as a complete dud (the confusing time paradox being a major one), but I'll happily admit that I kinda liked it. That may be in part due to the Back to the Future link, as that is one of my favourite films of all time, but it's probably more to do with the two central performances, as both Lewis Smith and Jason Gedrick come across as likeable guys in relatively simplistic, stock character roles.

A classic? Hardly. But there's a certain to charm to The Heavenly Kid that has earned it a reprise from the list of 1980's also rans.

Save from obscurity? Yes.

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