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         "My bowling ball lies frozen in a footlocker in Chicago..."

-- A Brain-Locked Travis W. Redfish     




Gonzoid Cinema




"You'd think I could get better seats than this."


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Sights &
  Alan Rudolph
  Alan Rudolph
  Big Boy Medlin
  Michael Ventura
  Zalman King
  Zalman King
  Carolyn Pfeiffer

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True Musical 
Time Capsules.

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One Crazy Summer

The Sore Losers


We begin with a wide-open shot on a lonesome stretch of highway, where several armadillos scamper about, meaning we've gotta be in Texas somewheres (-- and believe me, the movie takes every opportunity to remind you that our lead character is from Texas.) We then focus and follow a passing beer truck that eventually pulls up to the Redfish house: a wizard's workshop of gadgets, kit-bashed furniture and appliances. The patriarch of this mansion of perpetual motion is one Corpus Redfish (Art Carney), who controls it all via remote control from his motorized wheel-chair. He welcomes B.B. (Gailard Sartain), who is there to pick up Corpus' son, Travis (Meatloaf), so they can get to work. But Corpus' daughter, Alice (Rhoda Bates), has a thing for B.B., and is so excited to see him that she accidentally sucks his privates into her vacuum cleaner, where they promptly get stuck...

Now, if you find this perpetuating comedy of errors absolutely hilarious, you're gonna love this film. But if you don't, I'll warn you right now that it's going to be a very long, long movie for you to endure.

You  probably won't recognize the name Michael Lee Aday but if I named his alter ego, Meatloaf, it might ring a few bells. Back in the late 1970s, with Meatloaf's massive voice and stage presence, when combined with composer Jim Steinham's bombastic assault on the piano, operatic rock was born. Their debut album, Bat of Hell, roared onto the charts with the epic "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" -- a tribute to promises made to get a little nookie in the back seat (-- and the Disc Jockey's best friend if he has to go take a leak because the song lasted for at least and hour and half.) The duo caught lightning in a bottle for only one album, though. Creative squabbling, proper credit and health problems really ended it before it even began (-- although they would reunite almost twenty years later with "Anything for Love." A song that was twice as long, but success was found fleeting for them again.)

So while Meatloaf's musical career has had many peaks and valleys, his live shows were legendary -- and one gets a feeling that this, when coupled with his bigger than life persona, got him several acting gigs, including this one. (He actually broke into the scene performing in musical theater.) Was he any good? Well, I think Meatloaf is actually a pretty good actor, but the film he stars in here is a whole other can of corn. Read on...

After Travis saves B.B. and his unmentionables, they get to work. And while making their first delivery, when they pass a broken down RV, Travis is immediately smitten by a girl hanging out the back window, and over B.B.'s protests, stops to help out. Seems the RV's transmission has conked out, and the squirrelly driver, Ace (Joe Spano), whose freaking out over this predicament, says he needs to get the sound equipment stored inside to Austin for a Hank Williams Jr. concert ASAP or his boss, Mohamed, of Mohamed's Rock and Roll Circus fame, will either fire him or kill him -- or both. Being a mechanical genius of MacGuyveresque proportions, Travis claims he can fix the RV with just some spit and bailing wire; but what he really needs is a nail file. When Lola Bouillabaisse (Kaki Hunter), the girl he spotted earlier, offers up hers, she crawls under the RV with him and watches while he work's his magic. And before you can say pass me another Lone Star brew, the RV is working again. Amazed at this mechanical wizardry, Ace begs Travis to stay with them in case they break down again. B.B. tries to talk him out of it, but Travis has fallen for Lola's chicken legs and crooked teeth (-- must be a Texas thing.) Commandeering the driver's seat, he puts the peddle to the metal and they're back on the road to Austin, where along the way, Lola, realizing she's got the lunkhead Travis wrapped around her little finger, teases and baits him constantly. Apparently, she has a dream of being a professional groupie and has her eyes set on being Alice Cooper's Number One Fan, and no one's gonna stand in her way.

When they arrive in Austin, terminally late, Ace panics because Mohamed (Don Cornelius) is there, impatiently waiting for them. Assuming Travis is Ace's knew roadie, the boss threatens if the equipment isn't set up in ten minutes, they'll all be fired, or killed -- or both. Using Lola, Ace tricks Travis into helping again, who works another miracle. When the show starts (-- and if Hank starts singing "Are You Ready for Some Football?" I'm stopping the tape right now --) Lola and Travis are still bickering and accidentally start a bar room brawl; this one with a feminine hook as only the girls fight. As things spiral out of control, Hank Jr. calls Roy Orbison up on stage and they calm things down by playing "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You." (Well, why not; it worked for Elvis in Viva Las Vegas.) After things settle down, one big brute still wants a piece of Lola for spilling beer on his girlfriend. When Travis intercedes, for a tantalizing split-second, it appears we're actually going to have an authentic belly-bucking contest, but instead, the men charge each other and butt heads like a couple of rogue big-horn sheep. Wait! Forgot we're in Texas. Make that a couple of rogue longhorn bulls. And while the bruiser is knocked out cold on impact, Travis is still standing, babbling incoherently, in some kind of stupor. B.B. recognizes this as brain-lock and the only cure for that is more beer. (So I'm guessing this kind of thing has happened before.) Meanwhile, Mohamed is so impressed with Travis's work he promotes Ace on the spot, and wants him and his one-man crew to come to LA with him. Ace is jealous of Travis's skills but is smart enough to realize that he needs him, and gets Lola to tease the big, stupor'd lug into Mohamed's limo. Travis, who still isn't right in the head, then commandeers the vehicle and his erratic driving soon has several patrol cars after them. Several car crashes, and an ode to the Scooby Doo chase scenario later (-- you'll know when you see it --) they're all off to LA. 

Along the way, Travis recovers from his head trauma, and when he finds out she's only sixteen, tries to talk Lola out of her career choice. Once in LA, Ace's first gig is a punk band, who won't play unless he provides drugs for them. Hiding the drugs in a Tide soap box, Ace then gives it to Travis so he'll get arrested if they get caught. Oblivious to the ruse, Travis and Lola use the cocaine to do their laundry. (Actually, an old lady, who realizes what it really is, trades them for some real soap and then leaves to sell it.) Then, right before the concert, when Ace asks for the box of "soap" Lola says it's gone; they used it all. Well, at least the laundry's done. After Ace reams her out, knowing the band won't go on now, Travis sees Lola is crushed. To fix things, he threatens the band with bodily violence unless they play, and then herds them on stage where the show goes on as planned. Lola is grateful for the gesture, but when Travis tries to make some moves on her, she rebuffs him: Alice Cooper is still the one and only man for her.

Again, Mohamed is so impressed with Travis's skills he puts him in charge of the Rock and Roll Circus's upcoming big show in Idaho. But when the caravan arrives in the Spud State, they're given a court order to cease and desist due to the current energy crisis, because they can't waste power on Rock-n-Roll. Once again, Travis comes to the rescue, rigging up a solar-powered methane generator (-- using cow flop), and the show goes on, with Blondie as the opening act. And as Debbie Harry flirts with Travis, Lola jealously watches. (I thought she wanted Cooper?) She then retaliates by going from trailer to trailer, looking to score with any band member who is willing. From the scaffolding above the stage, Travis watches as Blondie closes their set with a punk cover of the Johnny Cash classic "Ring of Fire." When the song ends, Mohamed takes the stage and asks the crowd for a big round of applause for the man who made this whole thing possible. But when he calls Travis's name, almost on cue, the man of the hour promptly falls off his perch and crashes through the stage below. They pull him out but the impact has triggered another bad case of brain-lock. So Mohamed sends him back to the hotel with the band, and then the film goes all David Lynch on us for the ride into town: close-up shots of eyeballs, and talk off splitting and breaking skulls with hammers takes us all the way to the hotel lounge, where Asleep at the Wheel is playing a slow country ballad about -- you guessed it, Texas, which brings Travis out of his brain-lock just as Lola shows up, flanked by the all midget band, Snow White. Upset that Travis is drinking with Ms. Harry, at Lola's urging, a fight breaks out between the two bands until Travis drags the instigator out into the lobby. 

Tired and fed-up with her mixed signals, he promptly drives Lola all the way cross-country to New York City's Madison Square Garden, where Alice Cooper is scheduled to perform. They arrive early and Lola is disappointed because Cooper is out of costume. But Travis doesn't care, gives her the big viya con dios, and tells the shock-rocker she's his problem now and storms off, vowing to return to Texas as soon as possible. As Lola begs him not to leave her there, Cooper hears her call Travis by name and calls him back. Hoping the now legendary roadie can fix his broken sound system, Travis agrees to do it on two conditions: one, Cooper has to have dinner with Lola in full costume, and two, transportation back to Texas. Seems he's got to get home because sister Alice finally got B.B. drunk enough to marry her and he must make the wedding.

Cooper agrees, and after Travis fixes the feedback problem with a potato and '57 Chevy hubcap, the concert starts, with Lola seated front row center. Watching her from just off stage, Travis realizes he's lost her forever. But Lola follows him out of the arena -- not to reconcile, but to apologize. Her lifelong dream just came true and she can't leave now. With that, Travis looks her dead in the eye and so rightfully points out that he never asked her to come back to Texas with him. With that, he climbs into his new bus and heads home, leaving Lola behind all alone. 

Back in Texas, at the Redfish compound, the wedding is in full drunken swing -- but something is missing, and they all know it's just not the same without Travis. As the ceremony commences without him, while the groomsmen prop B.B. up because he's too drunk to stand up on his own, before the couple can exchange their vows, Travis makes his triumphant return; to which Corpus tells the preacher to hurry things along because there's more beer that needs drinking. After the ceremony rapidly wraps up and the drinking commences, the phone rings; it's Lola, looking for Travis. Corpus gives him some privacy by flipping a switch, causing the whole phone booth to slide outside. Seems she's had a change of heart, so Travis tells her to stay put and he'll be right there to pick her up. When he finds her, she jumps on the bus and swears she's done being a groupie and wants to stay in Texas with him and be psychic ( -- for the record, she has shown some amazing precognitive powers during the course of the film already.) As the happy couple head for home, suddenly, the bus is flooded with a bright light from above. When the light descends and whatever it is lands, Lola gets excited and believes the UFO is there for them; because if those E.T.'s are having engine trouble, only Travis W. Redfish can fix it and get them back on the galactic freeway. As she jumps out of the bus to greet them, Travis looks straight into the camera and wonders why all this weird stuff always happens to him.

The End

Have you ever seen a comedy where all the players are so positive that what they're doing is so hysterical but you just don't have the heart to tell them that it just isn't all that funny? Comedy is pretty tricky thing and not as easy to pull off as one would think. If your script is funny then the actors have an easier road to hoe. If your film's script stinks, an experienced comedian might be able to salvage something. But if your script is shaky and your leading man isn't a comedian, like our boy Meatloaf, here, then your production is doomed. I honestly think Meatloaf has a lot of potential as an actor, and I think he can be funny -- if he's given something decent to work with. Think of Tom Arnold in True Lies. Remember that? Yeah. He had a lot of funny lines in that movie. Now look at The Stupids or McHale's Navy and I think you'll understand what I'm getting at.

There are four screenwriters credited to this thing, including future premium cable soft-core guru Zalman King -- who also produced it. Even with all that input the film is very minimalist when it comes to the actual plot, and it's stretched pretty dang thin by the end. And frankly, a lot of Roadie feels like it was made up as they went along. Or maybe the actors improvised a lot. I don't know. I personally got the sense that the entire film was a private joke that I wasn't in on. The films only really funny gag is seeing Alice Cooper out of his make-up, and Don Cornelius, the founder of TV's Soul Train, is hilarious. It also should be noted that Hunter is a pretty good comedic actress, in the vein of Imogene Coca, and went on to shine as Pee-Wee's girlfriend, Wendy, in the Porky's series; but in Roadie, she and Art Carney are pretty much wasted potential. 

Heck, that sums up this movie best -- wasted potential. There are some great gags that are barely touched on, while a colossal amount of film is wasted on gags that fall flat. Redfish's aw-shucks Texastude (-- that's attitude, Texas style --) and Lola's strained jailbait naiveté grows tiresome, and it doesn't help that they play the exact same scene, almost line for line, at least five times: Twice in the RV; once in the hotel; once in the Laundromat; and once more at the outdoor concert. Still, I was determined to give the film the benefit of the doubt, and it isn't really all that terrible -- it just isn't that funny, and my patience finally ran out.

If the film has one redeeming quality, Roadie does provide a nice time capsule of music from that era -- eclectic and all over the map in styles, but enjoyable nonetheless as we run the gambit from Hank Williams Jr. country ballads to Blondie's punk covers to the love ballads of shock rocker Alice Cooper. Again, even with this, the movie makes a colossal blunder of things as it has a bad habit of cutting these songs short. *sigh*

Originally Posted: 09/22/03 :: Rehashed 05/21/10

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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