Spinal Zap

The Lone Rangers, a struggling L.A. rock and roll power trio, can't even come up with a name that makes sense; as several characters in the film Airheads point out, you can't be a lone ranger if there's more than one of you. But, like most unsigned bands, they believe they have what it takes to become stars. Unfortunately, no one in a position to help them shares their opinion.

It's a common enough scenario in today's music industry. But the Rangers are forced to take some uncommon steps to remedy the situation when singer-songwriter-guitarist-frontman-pretty boy Chazz (Brendan Fraser) gets thrown out of the apartment of his pouting babe, Kayla, for failure to hit the big time quickly enough. The Rangers break into radio station KPPX (no connection to Broward's WKPX) and prevail upon the disc jockey to play their demo tape. Of course, from that point on nothing goes as planned, and within moments the Lone Rangers inadvertently have taken the station hostage.

What did you expect from a film called Airheads? There hasn't been a more appropriately named movie since Tod Browning's Freaks. Airheads is a breezy summer spoof that sets up broad, easy targets and hits them. The presence of director Michael Lehmann (Heathers) ensures that the shenanigans will not degenerate into Pauly Shore-level nonsense, but if you're expecting traces of the biting black humor or devastating satirical tone found in Heathers, sorry to disappoint you. Your seven bucks gets you a few funny lines and some surprisingly deft performances from Adam Sandler and Steve Buscemi as a pair of bickering bandmates to offset the really bad ones by Michael McKean and Joe Mantegna as the station's weaselly program director and cynical Johnny Fever-ish DJ, respectively. Personally, I never cared for Sandler's work on Saturday Night Live, but he easily steals this movie. His performance here runs neck and neck with Tom Arnold's wisecracking turn in True Lies as the summer's biggest (and most welcome) comic surprise.

Airheads occasionally threatens to make a solid observation or two in spite of itself: lampooning the rock fashion code; pointing out that "rock stars don't go to jail A Vince Neil only did 30 days and he killed somebody"; lambasting classic rock and the timidity of radio in general. But no potentially weighty or pointed observation is followed up; no observation that can't be tossed off in a pithy one-liner intrudes upon the silliness. The movie's idea of a big risk is to take a stance against lip-synching in music videos.

It's a dumbed-down Dog Day Afternoon meets Beavis and Butt-Head. Like its trio of clueless protagonists, Airheads boasts little ambition beyond having a good time.

 
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