189. Malibu Beach (1978)
Director: Robert J. Rosenthal
Writers: Celia Susan Cotelo and Robert J. Rosenthal
From: Cult Cinema
It’s summer in Malibu and Bobby, Dina, and their friends are having fun on the beach.
Another Marimark Production. Collectively, they’re my most hated movies. Not because they’re so bad, but because there are parts that are actually good. The movies have good production values, competent execution, and sometimes real actors. Yet they’re so lazy, beyond even perfunctory. There is a tired cynicism here that rivals the mockbusters of the Asylum. This one, though, makes me both trepidatious and hopeful.
I should note that this is being written before I’ve watched the movie.
This movie is from the writer/director of Zapped!, a 1982 teen boob comedy starring Scott Baio and Willie Aames. Baio gets exposed to an experimental serum that gives him telekinetic powers. Pranks ensue along the lines of what you’d expect from an R-rated 80’s comedy: skirts being lifted, tops popping off, etc.
That’s not the issue I have with Zapped! What makes me hopeful for Malibu Beach is that Zapped! is actually pretty good on many levels. It has wit, energy, and charming characters, generally. The “generally” is where I get nervous. In the movie, Aames is Baio’s scumbag friend and the one pushing him to lift skirts and whatnot. There’s a scene where Aames hooks up with the snooty hot girl and has rigged a camera to take a picture of them while they’re having sex. If that’s not crossing a big enough line, he passes out copies of the picture at the prom. And he’s not coded as the villain. This is all played up as shrugging, “boys will be boys” fun. And it’s not. It’s a really uncomfortable violation of consent.
More than that, though, is a scene with Baio. The best part of the movie is Baio getting a girlfriend and the two of them relating. There’s a nice montage of them dating and getting snuggly and it has a moment where when they’re laying together, she touches his hand, and says “no.”
The look on his face is 100% “bitch, don’t make me force you.” Then she laughs cause she was just kidding anyway. The trope of “I said ‘no,’ but I was kidding,” isn’t my problem, it’s the clear rape-face on Baio, and it wasn’t just me: I watched this movie with my bad movie group. One of them had grown up watching it and remembered it as being fun, upbeat, and silly. He’s also a guy who complains about “feminists” and “SJW’s.”
He was uncomfortable about that scene and after the movie said he didn’t remember it being so rapey.
So that’s where I stand going into Malibu Beach: it’s from a studio I hate, made by a guy who can make something really entertaining that also crosses serious lines. How will this play out?
A huge heaping helping of fuck this movie.
School’s out for summer and everyone’s headed to Malibu beach. Dina is working as a lifeguard, Dugan is a body-building beach rat, and Bobby and Paul are two scumbag pieces of shit. Also our heroes. How does the movie get this so wrong? Well, in their first scene on the beach, the blond and squinty Bobby and Paul are running along tossing a football back and forth (a la The Room) and end up throwing it in the face of their former teacher because they’re not paying attention. One scene earlier, Rocky and whoeverthefuck, blond and squinty, are throwing a football back and forth and knock someone over by unexpectedly throwing it at them. This latter pair are coded as assholes, but they’re not, in any way, different from Bobby and Paul who are coded as the heroes. In fact, Rocky et al take less shitty action. But that’s our starting point—our heroes are totally different from these assholes even though they’re doing the exact same thing.
I’d go through the plot, but there’s no plot. No goals, no struggles, no thwarted desires. No structure, no callbacks, no throughline. There’s just stuff that keeps happening without any weight or consequence.
The only thing you could call a throughline is Dugan bullying Bobby and Paul. He’s the muscle-headed beach jock and, narratively, in the beach movie format, is supposed to be picking on people so his eventual embarrassment at the end of the movie are his just desserts. Only the conflict between him and the boys starts when he’s successfully flirting with one of their teachers and the boys throw a football at them. He basically tells them to fuck off, and that’s supposed to make him the dick when they’re no different from the annoying kid who pops up immediately after, stomping on sand castles and kicking sand on sunbathing strangers.
Immediately, your coded bully is getting in the characters’ faces because the characters are fucking with people. You’ve marked him out as the good guy.
And this continues. That night, Dina and her friend are driving around, meet Bobby and Paul, and Bobby starts hooking up with the friend. Dina’s not interested in Paul, though, but he keeps trying to kiss her and feel her up. Dugan sees this and intervenes, and Bobby runs up to threaten him and protect Paul. But she’d said “no,” a lot, and Paul still wasn’t stopping. Dugan isn’t the bad guy here, but the movie acts like he is because, what, he’s cockblocking Paul?
Later, Dina and her friend find the women’s room is too gross to use so check the men’s room. Paul and Bobby are just walking out, but Paul tells Bobby to hide inside. Paul tells the girls that it’s empty and safe to go in, and Bobby jumps out to surprise them (and thank God that’s the only place that scene went). Dugan catches them coming out, gets in Bobby’s face again, and the two decide to drag race through the parking lot. Bobby steals a cop car for the race.
Bobby steals a cop car. To drag race someone. And flips the cop car by crashing through a brick wall, barely managing to crawl out of the wreckage.
Nothing comes of this: no consequences, no repercussions, it’s not even mentioned again in the movie. Jesus, you could call this White Privilege: The Motion Picture, but I’m sure that’ll be a biopic of 45.
In the end, Bobby and Dugan face off in a swimming competition. Dugan is winning, but Paul puts on a shark fin and swims nearby, scaring Dugan… making him swim faster and beat Bobby by even more. Bobby knows it’s Paul so is just mugging in the water when a real shark shows up and… doesn’t bite him or result in any consequences at all. Dugan walks away dejected, ruminating in voice-over how he won the race but still didn’t get the girl. Then the teacher, who he’d ultimately struck out with earlier, pulls up and invites him back to her place. He gets in the car with a look that says this may not be a win for him. Bobby and his shitty friends skip off to terrorize more people another day a la Devil Times Five. THE END.
The perfunctoriness of other Marimark productions were at least punctuated by occasional moments of joy, wit, or invention. This doesn’t even have those. Instead, it has a dog that runs along the beach stealing bikini tops off girls so you have lots of easy nudity—four topless scenes in the first ten minutes of the movie.
It’s not just that nothing happens in the movie or that there’s no plot—you can get away with that, especially in movies about a summer. It’s that I fucking hate these people. They’re not nice, they’re not fun, and they’re not clever. They bully people, assault women, and throw tantrums whenever someone calls them out. These people are the bad guys of your beach movie, but Rosenthal has made them his heroes.
Zapped!, it turned out, set my expectations too high. This is a boring movie where you have to watch shitty people trying to get their dick wet—but without any of the cleverness or invention of, say, American Pie. Or any of its sequels. While it’s not quite as enraging or aggressively awful as Cavegirl or Going Steady, it’s filled out the trifecta and is, hands down, the worst Marimark movie I’ve seen yet. Skip it.