I've only seen two movies in the movie theatre this summer: Much Ado About Nothing and Stories We Tell. I know, Shakespeare and documentary. Nothing exploded, there were no aliens, and The Rock and/or Vin Diesel did not make an appearance. I am planning on going to see At World's End later this month because nothing could go wrong with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, robots, and a pub crawl. I wanted to care more about movies this summer and see all of them but that never happened. I thought Joss Whedon would save summer movies for me but all Much Ado made me realize is that I'm probably more of a fall or winter movie kind of girl.
I spent many an evening this summer watching movies like One Crazy Summer, Northshore, Shag, Troop Beverly Hills, and Wet, Hot American Summer. Basically, I made up my own summer movie calendar. It was a lot like when the library used to show kids' movies in the summer and I couldn't miss Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Charlotte's Web. Maybe next summer I'll do the same thing and invite people over like my own version of the outdoor movie fests around DC. I never go to these mostly because I don't think sitting outdoors and sweating profusely while watching The Breakfast Club sounds fun. Maybe I'm wrong.
Anyway, last weekend was a lazy one as I had just come back from a week of travel and a Black Sabbath concert. My main objectives for the weekend were to do laundry, sleep in, and lay on my couch. I stumbled upon a favorite summer movie of mine, Back to the Beach, starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. If you haven't seen this movie I encourage you to make sure it happens before the end of the summer. You'll immediately want to learn to surf and coordinate your outfits. Frankie and Annette were famous for the formulaic beach movies of the sixties like Beach Blanket Bingo, Bikini Beach, Beach Party, and Muscle Beach Party. There was always a lot of surfing, random dance numbers, a tragic surf accident, and bonfires. And of course, love stories. Do you ever wonder what happened to characters after the movie ends? Well, Back to the Beach is exactly that. It answers the question - what happened after the beach party?
The answer, which I find both fascinating and horrifying, is that Frankie and Annette have become unhappy suburbanites living in Ohio as far away from the beach as possible. The Surf King now sells cars using surfing (in front of a backdrop) and is generally a miserable person (who wears very shiny suits and has helmet hair). Annette shops, stocks the pantry full of Skippy peanut butter (since the real Annette did Skippy commercials), and has raised two children, one of whom has decided to be a punk because he hates everything his cheery mom stands for. She also has perfect hair and coordinated outfits. So how do they bring the fun back into their lives? With a trip to Hawaii! On the way, they make a stop in L.A. to see their daughter, Sandi (it's Aunt Becky from "Full House"!). Sandi has been living on a pier with her surfer boyfriend Michael and hasn't told her parents. Annette thinks living on a pier is "adorable", Frankie doesn't want to miss their flight and is generally awful to everyone. Of course they do miss their flight when they end up visiting a surf bar and the bad girl of their past, played by Connie Stevens (of course), makes Frankie sing. With Dick Dale. And this all leads to excessive shopping, surfing, dancing on the beach, and love advice from Frankie and Annette.
I haven't seen this movie since sometime in high school and it is every bit of ridiculous that I remember. Here are some important things I learned on this viewing:
- Frankie is never referred to as Frankie during the movie. He's called "your father", "Dad", "my husband", and "the Big Kahuna" but never Frankie. This was because the studio who released his earlier beach films owned the rights to the character "Frankie" and wouldn't allow this studio to use the name even though it's Frankie Avalon's name. Even in the credits he's listed as Annette's husband.
- Everything can be solved by eating a Skippy peanut butter sandwich, shopping, or wearing coordinated outfits with your mom and friends at a slumber party.
- There are surf gangs. I still haven't quite figured out if they surf while wearing all their punk rock costuming but I assume they do. It would probably scare away sharks.
- If you were on a tv show in the sixties, you got to have a cameo in this movie: Gilligan, the Skipper, Wally and Beaver, June Cleaver, and Agent Smart all made appearances.
- Pee-Wee Herman taught us all that the "Bird is the Word" in one of many fantastic choreographed numbers. He even exits on a surfboard that looks like his bike. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Dick Dale also make appearances in the surf bar. This seems insane to me.
- I still have a crush on Michael, Sandi's surfer boyfriend. I figured the years would have changed this but I was wrong.
- Love advice from Frankie and Annette is both crazy and crazily effective. She sings and dances on the beach to show him she's having fun without him and he throws a huge beach party for her and burns things. That's love my friends.
- Connie Stevens is perfection and gets all the good lines. When asked if she's fun, she replies "Honey, I'm an amusement park." Or later to Annette, "I never get the guy; I'm the bad girl. Remember?"
- I believe the storm that caused Frankie's surf accident is actually the same kind of storm that caused sharknadoes. I don't have any proof of this but the special effects in both movies seem about the same so I'm guessing it was the same storm.
- And of course, surfing duels are a totally legit way to solve your problems, love conquers all, and the only way to end anything is with a musical number. So this movie is exactly like real life.
Coming soon on the Island: I reveal my DC Days plans and a return to mix tapes, music, and I'll finally discuss my membership in a super secret club.