'80s Movie Month: "Back to the Beach" Review

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Frankie and Annette, having grown up and put aside their beach-partying lifestyle, visit their daughter in Southern California and discover there's still some wild times left in them.
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'80s Movie Month: "Back to the Beach" Review

Rating: PG
Length: 92 min
Release Date: August 7, 1987
Directed by: Lyndall Hobbs
Genre: Comedy, Musical

"Back to the Beach" is a glorious spoof of the 1960s surfer flicks that are beloved by modern audiences as cinema classics. The film stars Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, both Hollywood legends in their own right, as a husband and wife living in the Ohio suburbs. Annette and Frankie were once the hippest surfer couple on the beach, and Frankie was known for setting records when it came to catching the biggest wave. His title has been safe and secure for years, even though he and his wife have long since retired to a quiet suburban life as the all-American couple.

When Frankie and Annette visit their daughter Sandi in beautiful Southern California, they discover she has taken up with a young surfer who resembles Frankie in his glory days. Michael, Sandi's new beau, runs with a rough crowd that's causing trouble on the beach for honest surfers and young folks looking to have a good time. Annette is determined to maintain her new and dignified reputation and prevent her daughter from delving into the party lifestyle she once led, but Frankie is drawn in by the lure of the surf and the beautiful women who flock to it. When a young surfer challenges Frankie's title as The Big Kahuna he gives in to temptation. Frankie abandons his familial responsibilities and takes off to show the new generation a thing or two about riding the waves.

A frustrated Annette is left trying to keep her daughter away from the nefarious Michael while keeping her husband in line. Things get even more dramatic when Frankie is wooed by the beautiful Connie Stevens. The middle-aged couple is forced to return to their old ways to set things right in the little beach town where their daughter now lives. Along the way, they cross paths with a bevy of celebrities, including O.J. Simpson, Pee-wee Herman, Barbara Billingsley, and Bob Denver.

One of the most endearing aspects of "Back to the Beach" is its star-studded cast. From the film's major roles to its minor cameo appearances, "Back to the Beach" is a buffet of classic film stars and pop music icons. The film features the same groovy surfer tunes that filled the 1960s films it was inspired by, making it a nostalgic and enjoyable addition to the surer movie genre. From covers to original songs, the soundtrack of "Back to the Beach" is second to none. Of course, Annette Funicello graces the audience with her birdlike voice and stunning performance. Even amid a crowded cast of big names, Funicello manages to steal the show. Her character is relatable and humorous as she struggles to keep her little family afloat. Frankie Avalon delivers a hilarious performance as The Big Kahuna, playing the lovable and well-intentioned oaf to perfection.

Lori Loughlin is not to be overlooked for her performance as Sandi, Annette and Frankie's daughter. Lori is a naïve heroine who is drawn in by the charms of surfer dude Michael. Michael is the classic bad boy with his good looks and mean-spirited charm. Even as he terrorizes the beach, Michael has his fair share of ladies swooning over him. Fortunately for Lori, her mother is there to bail her out and give her some much-needed advice from a place of experience. The relationship between Lori and her parents is one of the more charming aspects of the film, providing a grounded story to serve as the backdrop to all the crazy antics that occur on the beach.

"Back to the Beach" is a hilarious comedy film that proves you don't have to be a kid to rule the beach and groove out to great music. The acting is pitch perfect, and the guest appearances by celebrities and music legends make the film even more special. Although "Back to the Beach" is a parody comedy at heart, it manages to pay homage more than it pokes fun at the surfer movie genre. Whether you are a die-hard fan of 1960s beach flicks or you simply enjoy a good comedy with plenty of laughs, it's hard to go wrong with this classic parody. The soundtrack is the icing on the cake, filled with great covers and original performances that are sure to get you in the mood to rock out with the retro beach crowd. To top it all off, the film features a heartwarming if comedic story about a couple of kids trying to stay cool through the chaos that accompanies middle age.

Rating: 3 out of 5