“Beach Balls” is a strange 1988 oddity of a film which seems to be a teen beach movie that’s also exploiting the then popular California Hair Metal scene. It stars Philip Paley as protagonist Charlie, a sort of clean cut all American boy that wants to join a band and hook up with beautiful blonde beach bunny Wendy (who doesn’t seem to notice him). Philip Paley played Chaka on the original “Land of The Lost” television show, so that kind of added to the hilarity anytime I saw his face on screen. Other than this movie and a role on the “Airwolf” TV show, he seems to have stopped acting. Pity, he’s not bad at it.
Charlie and his spazzy friend Scully hang out on the beach a lot, which I guess gives the movie its beach theme, but not much real beach related action takes place. Most of the plot involves Charlie trying to get together with Wendy, who seems obsessed with the goofy lead singer in an up-and-coming Hair Metal band that Charlie is acquainted with. He used this connection to the band to befriend Wendy, and the rest of the film’s plot has him and his crew interacting with various locals, including a trio of thugs and a group of evil 80’s-style jocks.
The plot all culminates when Charlie sets up a band showcase for the rockers while his parents are out of town. A record industry guy is coming to check out the band, and they need a place to play.
That’s the film in a nutshell. There’s no really involved plot, which is not surprising for a movie like this one. I’m sure the target audience for “Beach Balls” was more interested in beach-related shenanigans involving sex than anything resembling major plot development.
This is a pretty lighthearted film, and is nowhere as sleazy as the subject matter or film genre could have dictated. For the most part the villains are funny and not sinister or threatening, and the film is competently made. There’s very little nudity, which is puzzling for a rated R heavy metal beach movie. A couple of brief and distant topless shots were all I counted, but maybe I missed something. Generally I don’t think of a few scattered topless scenes as even being nudity anymore. Guess I’m jaded or something.
That and some mildly sexual situations and profanity are about all that marks “Beach Balls” as a rated R film, it could easily have been on broadcast television with about 20 seconds of edits.
The film does capture a lot of the late 80’s goofy rock trends. The horrible rock band does a pretty authentic take on the second or third level Sunset Strip bands that were beginning to dominate MTV at the time. One of the band members is even wearing a old “Rip Magazine” t-shirt, and that seems about right somehow. There’s an early scene in the film that takes place at one of the band’s shows, and they’re playing at Gazzarri’s, a famous Sunset Strip nightclub that catered to the hair metal scene of the time. In any case, it’s hard to buy the band as being up-and-coming based on the sparse audience on display, but whatever, we’ll let that pass.
Near the film’s end, Charlie ends up joining the band to perform at his house for the record industry guy, and it all looks completely silly. The clash between clean-cut Charlie, who has obviously never actually played a guitar in his life, and the rest of the band just looks ridiculous. But films like this aren’t known for their gritty realism, so that’s to be expected.
The soundtrack is full of hair metal songs, mostly by bands that never made it very big, so that also helps to establish the goofy rock and roll vibe of this movie. Without that now-vintage rock goofiness, this film wouldn’t be worth watching at all, but it’s fun enough for anyone that remembers that scene, or just likes watching attractive women in the weirdly dated but still sexy bikinis that seemed to have been standard beach attire back then. Other than a lag in pacing during the middle of the film, “Beach Balls” ambles on quickly enough, and is a fun ride. If you’re expecting a lot of nudity or really sleazy content, this film will disappoint. Please feel free to read some of my other reviews for more intensely sleazy viewing.
I’d give “Beach Balls” 6 high-waisted bikinis out of 10, and would especially recommend it for anyone that has forgotten how strange the late 80’s looked.