Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! (1989) (part 3 of 12)
We get a look at the stage, and I guess the look-alike contest is also a sound-alike contest, because the contestants are on stage taking turns performing… Well, guess what song they’re performing? This sound-alike component is a lucky thing, because as we pan across the hopefuls, who are all standing at the back of the stage wearing black ’80s muscle tees and trying not to fidget, we get hilarious confirmation that not a single one of them looks the slightest bit like Eddie Wilson. There’s even a beefy guy who must have gotten lost and thought he was at the contest for Reb Brown look-alikes. (Now that would be big news.)
Alas, it’s not a sound-alike deal; Our waiter/actor/performer is merely lip-syncing (or perhaps limp-syncing is a better term) to the same cut of “On the Dark Side” that we just heard five minutes ago. During this, there’s a long shot of the Calvin Klein models—sorry, I mean the “Eddie Wilson look-alikes”—as they watch the current contestant performing. They’re all trying to look butch and stoic, except one of them is ever so slightly grooving to the music. You just can’t resist the charms of John Cafferty, I tell you. I know the music in this movie had me up and dancing. No, sorry, that was just my colon.
Meanwhile, the clown on stage is still fake-singing, pushing his lips out like a low-rent Mick Jagger, and the crowd is going nuts, clapping over their heads like they’ve never experienced rock-and-roll before, like they’re rock-and-roll virgins, for Pete’s sake. Cut to Bill Cosby, looking bored. I mean, to Michael Paré, trying to look—well, what do we s’pose Eddie is feeling here, as his old nemesis Satin Records exploits him all over again? Annoyance? Helplessness? Rage? Constipation? Who knows? From his facial expression, the last one seems most likely.
Anyway, Eddie stomps downstairs to get closer to the stage. As the song ends, the radio deejay, who was in a booth before, is now on stage playing emcee. So he’s covering it and hosting it? What, he’s not competing, too?
In a rare smart move, the producers totally neglect to show one of these Twinkies actually win the look-alike contest, sparing us a laughable spectacle roughly on the order of Ashton Kutcher winning a prize for his stunning resemblance to Clark Gable. Instead, the deejay just tells the ecstatic crowd things they already know. Namely, that they’ve heard all the finalists and seen Sal get his platinum record, which he hoists sheepishly like he knows it’s made from spray-painted cardboard.
The crowd’s response to Sal holding up his award is to chant “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” [?] Which is sure to make you go “Huh?” if you don’t know from the first film that this was what crowds always did when Eddie performed. But “Huh?” is still valid, because they’re shouting “Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!” at Sal. The director allots Paré a reaction shot here, which he squanders by just sort of… staring at the crowd chanting his name. Oh, wait, he swallows, too. Now that’s acting.
Next, the deejay introduces a blazer-and-jeans dude from Satin Records with an Important Announcement. Blazer And Jeans Dude, who has long dark hair and looks like he’s competing in a Dennis Miller Look-Alike Contest, oils up to the mic. Eddie’s eyes narrow a bit. Dennis Miller Guy tells everyone that Satin Records has just gotten hold of the tapes of the second album Eddie was working on when he died, called Season in Hell. Cut to Sal looking embarrassed for some reason. Dennis goes on to say that the label is releasing the album “just for you!” And since normally records are never aimed at the fans or the record-buying public, everybody really lucked out this time.
Anyway, they start playing a cut from the second album, and suddenly Eddie is all claustrophobic like the walls are closing in and he bolts from the club. Oh, and by the way, throughout this whole sequence there are no TV cameras to be seen anywhere in the club, so apparently Martha Quinn was totally lying her ass off about covering this thing. I always knew there was something shady about her.
Jump to the next day, and Eddie’s wandering the boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey. This means he’s driven another two hours south. Good thing he’s getting those frequent-driver miles. It seems everything’s closed for the season, so Eddie won’t be getting his salt water taffy and tarot fix today.
What’s funny is I know Asbury Park a little, and Eddie II was filmed around the time when it had completely lost its old luster as the Jewel of the Jersey Shore, having become, by degrees, something more like the Armpit of the Jersey Shore. (They even sold off the beautiful carousel and took down the ferris wheel that figures prominently in “New York City Song”.) So all the camera angles had to be carefully selected to make Asbury look like the sterling resort it used to be, and not the hole it had temporarily become. This was another challenge the film was not quite up to.
As we zoom in on Eddie we’re suddenly in flashback, and in another clip from Eddie I, we pan across a lot of ’60s beachgoers to find Young Eddie explaining his vision to an awestruck Sal:
|Young Eddie: The stuff we’re doing now is like somebody’s bedsheets. Spread ’em out, soil ’em, ship ’em out to laundry, you know? But our songs… I want to be able to fold ourselves up in ’em forever! You understand?|
Okay, first of all. Soil ’em? I do not want to know. Second of all, what?! Eddie, you’re too deep for me, man. And that’s the end of the Asbury scene, which means Eddie drove down from Manhattan to the Jersey shore just to have a really pointless flashback. So not only do I want those two minutes back, I feel like I deserve to be reimbursed for gas and tolls.
The filmmakers, by the way, indulged in a little revisionist history with this flashback clip. In the first film, Eddie actually explained the connection between rock music and linens to Frank Ridgeway (the Tom Berenger character). Tom, however, was busy working for professional directors like Oliver Stone by the time the Cruisers sequel came around, so understandably, he declined to reprise his role. Consequently, for this clip the editor dropped in a totally unrelated shot of Young Sal looking amazed, like someone just explained to him what multiple orgasms are. The sight lines and lighting are a little off between Eddie and this new shot of Sal, which means that even if you’ve never seen Eddie I, the whole scene feels subliminally fake. This bit of fraud would render the Asbury segment even more pointless, except, well, infinity plus one is still infinity.
Back in New York, Dennis Miller Guy and his heavyset boss, Lew (who looks like the used car salesman to the Mafia, only less trustworthy) are in a recording suite. Sal is also here, and they’re all listening to what sounds like Eddie performing something bluesy, which Sal has evidently never heard before. Sal and Dennis start fighting over whether it’s really Eddie, with Sal all “Eddie always played with me” and Dennis all “the experts say it’s Eddie” and Sal all “screw the experts! We don’t need no stinkin’ experts!” and Dennis all “he was leaving you behind, pal”, and they’re like three seconds from whipping them out, when suddenly Sal just leaves instead. Sal’s rejection discomfits Mafia Used Car Salesman, who storms out a different door, leaving Dennis to scamper after him.
Dennis goes into hard-sell mode on Lew, pitching a new angle on the mystery tape as they careen West Wing–style through the halls of Satan Records. Sorry, Satin Records. Imagine me making that mistake. Anyway, Dennis argues that the noninvolvement of the old band on the mystery tape sessions just means the record company can cash in on the uncertainty, by spreading word that the tape might have been made “after Eddie Wilson died.” The irony gives you chills, right? Or is it the stupidity?
By the way, as the two exit the elevator into the Satin Records offices, we briefly see a huge sign with these two characters’ names (which is how we find out they’re president and vice president of the label), followed by three others that turn out to be the real names of people involved in the production: Charles Zev Cohen (the never-to- be-employed-again co-screenwriter) and Eric Norlen and Stéphane Reichel (both affiliated with the production company). Wow, Satin Records has its very own Bad Movie Hall of Shame! Wait, where’s Akiva Goldsman‘s plaque? Must be further down the wall. (And dig that brilliant Satin Records logo. Making an LP out of two circles and a dot! How did they think of it?)
Dennis Miller Guy wants Satin Records to promote the shit out of Season in Hell and the mystery tape together, and start people wondering if the mystery tape was made after Eddie’s car went off the bridge. Mafia Used Car Salesman allows this is possible, since Eddie’s body was never found. (Is it even possible in movies for someone whose body was never found to actually be dead?)
Dennis wants to announce the existence of the mystery tape after Season in Hell goes gold, and start getting people thinking Eddie might be alive, arranging sightings and TV specials and so forth. (I hear Satin Records has also signed a hot new band called Bigfoot and the Yetis.) Dennis brings it home and says, “Well? What do you think?” Which totally had me jonesing to see Dr. Clayton Forrester in the reverse angle sniffing, “It stinks!” Instead, Mafia Used Car Salesman says, “I think Eddie Wilson lives.” Woo-hoo! Evil 1, Eddie 0!