Vibes (1988) / Comedy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG for some violence and language
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Cyndi Lauper, Peter Falk, Julian Sands, Googy Gress, Michael Lerner, Ramon Bieri, Elisabeth Pena, John Kapelos, Steve Buscemi
Director: Ken Kwapis
Screenplay: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
Review published May 10, 2007
Pop star Cyndi Lauper's (Life with Mikey, The Opportunists) debut performance in a feature film is the main interest in this otherwise forgettable comedy that would prove to be the first dud for the normally surefire comedy screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Splash, A League of Their Own). Vibes is a case where appealing actors, funny writers, and a skilled director just can't seem to work in unison to create any sort of comedic momentum.
Lauper plays a spiritual medium named Sylvia Pickel, who ends up teaming up with fellow psychic Nick Deezy (Goldblum, Silverado), who has the ability to detect the origin of everyday objects by touch, and gets glimpses into the lives of the people who touched these objects in the past. They end up helping out a kooky older man named Harry Buscafusco (Falk, The Princess Bride), who gains their assistance under the guise of looking for his lost son in Ecuador. In reality, Harry is actually looking for lost Incan treasure rumored to exist in the mountains there, but trouble follows as treasure-seekers and others who want to find what is really there, a pyramid of vast psychic powers, aren't afraid to apply deadly force if necessary.
Cyndi Lauper isn't likely to knock anyone out with her comedic performance here, but she does a job that could be charitably described as "adequate" in her first effort. Unfortunately, as an actress, she has a very limited range, and only moderately funny through her punky hairstyles and thick, high-pitched New York accent. Her work with costar Goldblum appears to be of the "wait for Jeff to finish his line then say your line" variety, i.e. it seems two people working independently rather than in synch, which for a film filled with light romantic banter, cripples the effort of overcoming the rather lame idea for a story.
A film like Ghostbusters proved that one could make a comedy about paranormal investigators and make it marketable, and Romancing the Stone certainly set the trend for romantic adventures, but Vibes shows that it's not the subject matter that gets audiences laughing, but the content. It also doesn't help that director Ken Kwapis (He Said She Said, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) offers such a pedestrian treatment for all of these outlandish characters and occurrences -- a strong sense of mysticism and awe certainly would have gone a long way in making this a hit with those who like films based on ancient mysteries and spiritual revelations.
Sometimes, though, it's important for a film chock full of eccentric character actors to have a character with a sense of normalcy to anchor all the madcap developments. Not happening here, making Vibes seem like little more than quirky comic characters stuck in odd situations for which we have no interest in. With such a useless plot, lackluster direction, and without the kind of comic banter to stimulate the romantic entanglements, it's surprisingly flaccid given the wide array talent involved. Despite its spiritual premise, harmonic convergence among these artists is never achieved.
©2007 Vince Leo