1994 - PG-13 - 92 Mins.
|Director: Michael Lehmann
|Producer: Mark Burg, Ira Shuman, Robert Simonds
|Written By: Rich Wilkes
|Starring: Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler, Michael Richards, Joe Mantegna
|Review by: Joe Rickey
An attempt at comedic satire, ‘Airheads’ is about a wannabe rock band that goes by the name of The Lone Rangers and led by Chazz (Brendan Fraser), joined by heavy metal purist Rex (Steve Buscemi) and the rather genial and distinctly lacking the rock and roll toughness, is drummer Pip (Adam Sandler). After being unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend, Chazz decides that it is in the best interest of the band to make a trip to the local rock radio station in a quest to get their demo tape played. Unfortunately, the radio refuses to play it because its unsolicited material and they could be sued for allowing the airing of such material. Not taking no for an answer, Chazz gathers the rest of the group and they take the station hostage with squirt guns the hostages and the police believe are real Uzi’s. Mayhem ensues.
Directed by Michael Lehmann (‘Heathers’) and scripted by Rich Wilkes, ‘Airheads’ is, apart from a couple game performances and the few and far between moments where the comedy works on all cylinders, an example of an anemic comedy that simply lacks enough of a premise to sustain over 90 minutes of material. The film has the set-up for something that might work as a five minute skit on Saturday Night Live but flails and gasps for narrative air after about forty-five minutes as a feature-length film. The satire is rather half-hearted and never really goes for the jugular, raising some topical material regarding the state of modern music but never following through enough to make it the least bit effective. Further evidence is how certain scenes seem to drag and drag on for ages as normally capable character actors like Michael Richards literally are given basically nothing to do as Richards himself spends almost the entire film in the vent system of the radio station talking on the phone with the police only to pop up at a crucial point late in the film where he is finally given more than cursory screen time.
The film also suffers from an air of predictability throughout. One is able to discern the ending almost immediately after the radio station is taken hostage. Director Lehmann would have done everyone a favor if he had milked the scenario for all its worth by devising more complications for the band of rockers as the way in which they execute their plan is haphazard and not believable in the least.
That’s not to say the film is a total and complete loss as the entire cast does quite well with what they are given. In the lead role, Fraser is sufficiently believable as the ringleader and devoted rocker. As his right hand man, Buscemi is his weasel-like effective self, and Adam Sandler, in a role he took prior to becoming a huge star and perpetual leading man, is suitable. As the radio station’s “fight the system” DJ, Joe Mantegna gives the film’s single most enjoyable performance as he has the rebellious nature of the character down pat throughout.
‘Airheads’ lacks the satirical bite to be singularly effective in that area and also has some pacing issues that keep it down. As such, it can only be recommended mainly as a curiosity item for those looking to see what sorts of films Sandler and Fraser appeared in prior to becoming bonafide superstars of the acting world.