Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! (1989) (part 12 of 12)
Well, I guess Hilton must have won rock-paper-scissors backstage, because this time it’s Diane chasing after Eddie to beat some sense into his thick skull.
Eddie makes a beeline for his gray sedan, with Diane running after him pleading for him to come back. He has one last night for it to be about the music, she says, before the world finds out tomorrow. Eddie’s not having any of it. He demands the car keys, and when Diane reluctantly tosses them over the car roof, he clambers in, ready to peel off. Diane quickly gets in the passenger side. So, the driver’s side was locked, but not the passenger side? Diane must have foreseen this very scenario and left her side unlocked on purpose. Perhaps I underestimated her. Eddie growls menacingly at her:
|Eddie: Diane, I don’t want to hurt you. So get out of the car!|
Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. Not only is Eddie frantic to run away, but he’s willing to beat up his girlfriend to do it. Except that’s not really what he means (I suppose), because Diane says, “Yeah, let’s go! And maybe we can find a bridge and do it right this time!” Hey, I guess that’s what Sal meant back in Lakehurst about getting it right this time! He wasn’t talking about the music, he was talking about Eddie’s botched suicide from twenty years ago! Now it all makes sense! Eddie just stares at her, so Diane starts crying, and her sobs are so fake I keep expecting her to peek at Eddie to see if he’s buying it.
Inside, the concert is supposed to have started, and Lindsay is bitching at Rick, telling him to get on stage or she’ll put on the next act. Oh yeah, I’d love to see these guys go on without Eddie. Hilton could pull it off, maybe, but Rick and the rest of them would be running offstage after five minutes, doused in Pepsi. Man, I would totally buy tickets to that.
Thankfully, Eddie shows up just in time, all better and ready to go on. He’s ditched his jacket to reveal the Eddie Wilson trademark black muscle shirt. So now he looks exactly like Eddie Wilson, except for all the ways in which he looks different. They all tumble through the backstage door like the Monkees squeezing into a phone booth.
Cut to Shirtless Drummer slapping the beats of “Running Through the Fire”, and as they launch into the intro, Eddie is roaring, “Yeah! YEAH!” Yeah. We can see they’re playing for a huge and wildly excited crowd in a big arena, so wow, the Montreal Spring Music Festival has gotta be some hot ticket. Though I bet they’re all there to see the Niagara Falls High School Jazz Band.
Actually, the act that they’re all really there to see is Bon Jovi. Seriously. The concert scenes were filmed during a Bon Jovi concert in Las Vegas, and the crowd was asked to participate and (I presume) given lots of free Pepsi in exchange for their feigned enthusiasm. Works out pretty well, though we can see over the next few minutes that performing for a real, screaming arena crowd clearly makes Michael Paré and Bernie Coulson giddy and euphoric. Boy, a lot of work went into getting that particular high. For future reference, X is a lot easier to get a hold of, guys.
As we work our way though “Running Through the Fire”, we notice a couple of things. First, Diane is apparently watching the concert from some other planet, since her insert shots have no feeling of connection whatsoever to the roaring stadium crowd shots. This is nothing new; In fact, it’s only an escalation of her previously established ability to monitor Eddie’s concerts by means of insert shots originating in a galaxy far, far away.
But what’s really odd is that as you’re watching the band gyrate and dance around on stage, trading close-ups and interacting with Eddie, it feels like there’s something wrong, but you can’t quite… hmmm, what is it? There’s Eddie, Rick acting like a nut, Hilton the pro (but in leather pants [?]), Charlie making faces, even Quinn (who I think the director keeps forgetting about), and—wait, where’s Stewart? We pan past his stupid little Beethoven statue that he’s had on his keyboard throughout the movie (who is he, Schroeder?), but we get no close-ups, no medium shots, nothing but flailing blond hair in very, very wide shots. And then it hits you: David Matheson, who plays Stewart, was “unavailable for filming” that day (God, that has to be my favorite Hollywood euphemism), and so they stuck a blond wig on a stand-in and told him to look down and toss his head around as much as possible so his hair would obscure his features.
This means the last we ever see of Stewart—whose only line (in response to being told he was “lagging”) was “I know! I’m sorry,” and who incidentally never worked in the movies again—was when he was scrambling through the stage door with the rest of the band. So, David, if you’re out there, what happened? Couldn’t score a ticket to Vegas? Were there “artistic differences”? Were you laughed off the stage before they could even start filming? I have to know.
“Running Through the Fire” ends and the crowd, buzzed on Pepsi, screams and cheers, and Michael Paré is so cranked up he’s hyperventilating. Now quite honestly, the movie could have just ended here, instead of adding on the faux drama moment we’re about to get. If it was really “about the music” for Eddie, then a successful rock performance for a huge crowd, with his identity not even being an issue, would be the perfect ending. Instead, we go on.
Eddie introduces the band, during which Charlie stands up and the crowd goes nuts for his glistening torso—I mean, for his expert percussive skills. And not only do we get the tiresome epithet “Sexy Charlie Tanzie” again, but Rick acquires a new nickname: “The Killer” [!]. Riiight. Sorry, the only thing Rick Diesel ever killed was 90 minutes of my life.
Stewart’s introduction is voiced over a crowd reaction shot, confirmation (if any was necessary) that David Matheson was somewhere else in the world that day. Finally, Eddie comes around to himself. After a few seconds of hesitation, with the band and Extraterrestrial Diane watching him closely, he blurts out, “I’m… Eddie Wilson.”
The crowd reacts to this, not with a unison chant of “Yeah, right! You and ten other guys!” (which, unlike Diane’s Morning After moment, would have been an absolutely appropriate response), but with a chant of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” That doesn’t make any sense. Sal’s not even there. But listen, suppose you were at a concert twenty years ago and some guy with glasses was introducing his band and added, “And me, I’m… Buddy Holly!” Would you have thought, “Wow, Buddy Holly lived through that plane crash! Amazing! And he’s here!” Or would you have thought, “Shit, that dude is either really fucked up, or just had a major psychotic break. Either way, this should be one hell of a show!”
According to the press kit, by the way, the Bon Jovi audience’s chanting of “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” was “entirely unsolicited,” and was accompanied by women in the crowd “taking their clothes off,” and the cast and crew were deeply moved. Uh huh. For the record, there’s several shots where you can clearly see Paul Markle, AKA Shirtless Drummer, blatantly leading the crowd in the “Eddie” chant.
But wait, it gets better: Michael Paré later told a reporter that this fake concert was so successful, Bon Jovi’s promoters actually offered “Eddie Wilson” a whole fake concert tour [!]. They would have gone city to city, lip-syncing for stadium crowds. Wow, imagine! Prefab music stars lip-syncing other people’s songs before huge live audiences! Thank goodness Paré said no. If this had happened, if the music industry had betrayed our trust so cravenly, it would surely have been one of the tellingest signs of the looming Apocalypse.
The chanting continues relentlessly, and if Paré was cranked up before, he is now an incandescent being of pure ecstasy. After lots of unnecessary pans and zooms (the DP has apparently acquired ADD, or is as bored by this “climax” as we are) and some mounting incidental music, the chanting peters out and we fade into a still of Eddie [?] like they’re about to give us a title card telling us he dropped dead the next day. And the movie has to be over now, right?
No, post-production Eddie orders us to “rock and roll!” and the band goes into one more number, something completely forgettable called “Pride and Passion”. I’d tell you more about it, but it’s so forgettable that it actually creates an envelope of negative time, suitable for use in one of the more confusing episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.
Finally, after every minute of this entire song is shown to us, we freeze frame on Eddie, Quinn, and Rick holding up their guitars for the crowd, and the credits roll at last. And are the credits accompanied by a medley that regurgitates every song in the movie? Does the Pope shine his shoes in the woods? The credit music is such a slavish reproduction of the soundtrack, that I’m surprised they don’t give us “New York City Song” twice.
Now the fact that the movie just stops at an arbitrary point, rather than one of at least two earlier, perfectly natural ending spots, made me wonder what would have happened if the movie really forgot to end, and just kept going. What would have happened to the great band Rock (snicker) Solid? Perhaps we could get Ron Silver Sr. (played, incidentally, by an actual musicologist whose name I will look up later and forget to insert into this parenthetical aside) to tell us the story.
“Rock Solid had a promising start with the 1989 Montreal Spring Music Festival,” Ron Sr. would tell us, “but after the disappointing sales of their first album, Get in the Fucking Pocket You Fuckheads!, the band disintegrated and its members went their separate ways. Eddie Wilson’s comeback solo career was interrupted by seven hundred paternity claims organized and released in paperback by Larry King. Though he was a suspect in the double murder of Rick Diesel and Diane Armani, who apparently engaged in an illicit affair during the band’s ill-fated Outer Mongolia Tour, no charges were ever filed and suspicion later centered on Stewart Fairbanks, who was unable to satisfactorily account for his whereabouts. Quinn was last heard from attempting to create a support group for neglected bass players. Charlie, Hilton and Sal still tour occasionally as a reunion/cover band, the Rock Solid Cruisers. And of course, Eddie Wilson has died at least two more times that we know of, though reliable reports place him at the 1992 Clinton Inaugural Ball and on the staff of the New Republic under the name Jason Zengerle.”
So, how do you sum up Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives? I think I can put it best by quoting Eddie Wilson talking about Rick’s early guitar playing. If it was playing in club, it would be okay being in there, but then I’d go home and forget all about it. The bad movie music gods, though, will remember.
The best thing I can say for this movie is that for all of the least talented and most incompetent people involved—particularly and especially the screenwriters—Eddie II was such an effective form of résumé suicide that these individuals have since disappeared, unable to further disrupt our otherwise serene existences.
Frankly, though, I’m not sure what lesson I should take away from this story. I’m thinking it’s something like this: Don’t stop at biting the hand that feeds you. Make it your business to bite as many hands as possible, after first contracting rabies and rolling in shit. Only in this manner will you get that which you angrily pretend to disdain, but secretly crave. Well, that’s… um… as good a plan as any, I guess.