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Vicious Lips
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by Jack Sommersby

"Seventy-Nine Minutes of Tedium"
2 stars

Those looking for something of the cult-classic variety would be advised to look elsewhere.

The best that can be said of writer/director Albert Pyun's rock-'n-roll sci-fi picture Vicious Lips is that it's more tolerable than W. D. Richter's abominable The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension from two years prior. In fact, it actually gets off to a rather appealing start and sustains itself until the thirty-six-minute mark, where it doesn't stop, exactly, but stops being interesting. Sue Saad's pulse-pumping song "Reach for Your Dreams" plays over the opening credits and establishes a jovial mood and segues into an amusing scene where the manager of a band is the object of the universe's premiere nightclub owner's chagrin for having to cancel an appearance at Maxine's Radioactive Dream with "less than ten light years notice." (The club's name, with an added "s," was the title of Pyun's previous picture.) A replacement band has to be found, and to struggling, third-rate manager Matty's good fortune, he's called on by Maxine to be ready to play the next night, only Matty's just lost the lead singer to his all-female band Vicious Lips; he gives up-and-comer Judy Jetson a chance at "super-galactic stardom," though the rest of the band resents this well-groomed goodie two-shoes. Needing transport to Maxine's planet, Matty steals a spaceship (the keys have been left in the ignition, literally) unaware that in the rear cargo-hold is (according to the movie's credits) "Milo the Venusian Manbeast." The ship crash-lands on an arid Dune-like planet, where a low-budget production like this can shoot on location in a desert a lot cheaper than building a set, and after Matty leaves to seek some help, the girls bicker and eventually find themselves hunted down by the man-beast within the confines of the ship, which is prolonged not due to the girls being resourceful but the man-beast displaying the terrible coordination and clunky speed of a drunken snail for the sole sake of extending the movie's running time even to a mere seventy-nine minutes. Thankfully, the movie isn't obnoxiously top-heavy with forced eccentricity like Buckaroo Banzai -- for a while, it flows, with its complete and utter irreverence charming in an undemanding kind of way. You can't wait to see what's in store, which is all the more disappointing in that Vicious Lips winds up delivering very little -- it's the ultimate cinematic tease, revving one for an off-the-wall entertainment yet falling down on the job in the areas needed the most.

Pyun made an impressive debut with the excellent The Sword and the Sorcerer, displaying a voluptuous visual sense and real moviemaking bravado. (It still looks like one of 1982's ten-best to me.) He followed that up with the not-uninteresting post-apocalyptic comedy Radioactive Dreams, but his next effort was the abysmal, downright-idiotic high-school thriller Dangerously Close. Narrative is not his strong suit, and neither is couth -- those last two movies were undisciplined and lacked judgment, with only about a quarter of the ideas seeing their way to fruition. Pyun takes some chances, and this is a merit not to be ignored, but Vicious Lips, as close to avant-garde cinema as you can get, wobbles so badly in tone that it splinters into three different sections, with the promising first third giving way to a sagging middle section and quite the underwhelming finale hardly worth the wait. Lacking a knockout soundtrack and enjoyably outlandish plotting by the likes of Repo Man, the movie is both awkward and undernourished -- it could've used some semblances of ratiocination and a lot more imagination, not to mention energy. Once the band's ship is inoperable and the characters are left to their own limited devices, the dreadful dialogue kicks in, and all we have to respond to are the semi-inspired antics of the game Anthony Kentz, who plays Matty as the ultimate double-talking sleaze. Dru-Anne Perry stars as the heroine Judy, and is devoid of both screen presence and a commanding voice -- when she sings, we share the rest of the band's hesitation in accepting her as the band's front woman; and her progression from innocence to a commanding figure is unconvincing to say the least. (As one of the band's subsidiary members, Linda Kerridge, who did well in the otherwise-wretched Fade to Black, makes a much more indelible impression.) Added to which, there so many shifting points of view that you need a few doses of Dramamine to keep your bearings, and Pyun is unable to give his own minimal material much in the way of oomph. Granted, the talented cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt (who lit the dandy Roger Corman-produced Forbidden World) manages the occasional vivid image with his use of lurid color gels, which sometimes helps make up for the mediocre compositions, but this inane movie still should have never seen the light of day.

Skip it.

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originally posted: 02/18/14 02:11:19
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  01-Jan-1986 (R)


  01-Mar-1986 (M)

Directed by
  Albert Pyun

Written by
  Albert Pyun

  Dru-Anne Perry
  Gina Calabrese
  Linda Kerridge
  Shayne Farris
  Anthony Kentz

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