First Time Watch: Zapped! (1982)

By Christian DiMartino

Zapped! feels like a rejected 1970s Disney comedy that experienced a bizarre re-write following the rejection. My guess is, the person behind said re-write was aiming to make something in the vein of Porky’s.  I looked into the trivia to see if they had in fact brought this script to Disney. No such fact exists, but in an interesting side note, recent Emmy nominee Zendaya was the star of a Disney Channel series called Zapped… but it does not contain this premise. I don’t know, I just found that amusing.

The film does have a premise that would be reminiscent of a 70s Disney comedy- think: The Strongest Man in the World– but in this case it’s been re-imagined as a weird teenage sex comedy… and not a very funny one. This film reeks of the 80s, and in that regard, one might mine some enjoyment out of it. Hell, people out there might actually think this is good. Me? I didn’t know what this movie was aiming to be, but in the end, I know what it isn’t: Funny.

Scott Baio, a lost artifact of the 80s, plays Barney, a totally dorky science dork who develops telekinetic powers after an experiment goes awry. What does he do with his newfound powers? Well, he uses it to find off his bullies. He also uses it, pretty frequently I might add, to rip the girl’s shirts off and open. Yeah one thing you will notice here is that either the filmmakers thought this gag was funny, or, quite simply, they just wanted to see titties. Well, they got their wish.

There is an amusing subplot involving Barney’s parents, who believe that his powers are the work of the devil. Also, the presence of Scatman Crothers always helps. Look at the filmography the man had: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, and… Zapped! Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Zapped! feels amateurish in its execution, very cheap in its look, and God those visual effects are just pitiful. Simply pitiful. Fun, and laughs could’ve been mined from this material, but it isn’t really anywhere to be found in this film, which was perhaps dead on arrival. Yet among all of the strangeness at play here, I ultimately just didn’t know what this film was trying to achieve.  Here is a movie that tires many things, and barely succeeds. It tries to be a light comedy, it tries to be a sex comedy, it tries to be a science fiction comedy.

It also tries to have some sort of emotional impact, and boy does it feel horribly out of place. Yes, the film that mines laughs out of boys looking up girls skirts and the exposure of naked teenage breasts also aspires to add depth an emotional arc involving Barney and his love interest. There is even a long, 80s cheese-filled montage displaying their romance. Not only does it feel phoned in and unconvincing, but considering the movie around it, it surely seemed random to throw it at us 50 minutes into the movie. Zapped! isn’t the worst comedy I have seen, but it is sleezy, lame, and ultimately, unfunny.

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