Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Great-ish Unsung Performances: Leif Garrett as Eddie Trojan in "The Spirit of '76"
For some reason I rented "The Spirit of '76" a few weeks ago. Maybe I just needed to "tune out" for a little while. This 1990 film is all kinds of dumb, but it's knowingly dumb and once you get used to the wooden acting and slow comic pacing by never-heard-from-again director Lucas Reiner, its good-natured, wacky charm starts to ooze forth, coating you in a retro day-glow aura.
Due to an imaginative futuristic catastrophe, America in the year 2176 has lost all contact with its past. Desperate scientists hijack rocket scientist Adam-11's time-travel machine in order to travel to the birth of our nation and reinstate our lost Constitution. Only the machine malfunctions and they end up in 1976, in the midst of Bicentennial fever. Also, Adam-11 is played by David Cassidy. That's right. David Cassidy with his trademark shag hairdo is a rocket scientist.
You also get the ever-cheerful McDonald brothers, Jeffrey and Steve, of Redd Kross, Roman and Sophia Coppola working in the background as writer and costume designer, respectively, and all kinds of funny little cameos by the likes of Devo, Carl and Rob Reiner, Julie Brown, and Moon Zappa, as a clothing boutique employee who digs astrology.
But most surprising of all is Leif Garrett's performance as swinging, polyester-encased Eddie Trojan. As a would-be ambassador of love to hot futuristic visitor, Chanel-6 (Olivia d'Abo, lookin' fiiiine), Garrett is goofy, horny, and surprisingly sweet. His charm has never been as present since his teen-idol years. Was it the feathered wig? The pukka shells? The power of The Hustle to move him? Also worth noting is his performance as a psychopath Soc in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Outsiders"--nothing behind the eyes there. While he continues to be tabloid fodder for battling addiction demons, we will always wonder in regards to his film career, what might have been...
Look at his awesome range, from horn-dog to cheerful arbitrator of disco-dancing foreplay. And look at his moves. A fan on the Internet Movie Database forum suggests he partake in "Dancing With The Stars." I agree! But only if he wears this outfit and others like it, for every performance.
Here's where Garrett really shines. Watch him alter his expression from hopeful elation to downtrodden disappointment. Awwww, Eddie...sometimes Boogie Fever hurts.
1990 was too close to the 70s for a full-blown satire of the era. Many people in 1990 still looked, talked and listened to the music of the 70s on a constant basis. Now those years are feeling like ancient history and it's nice to see David Cassidy in this film, still all cute and fairly angry. In 1990 he still had it. Disclosure: when I was eight, I LOOOOOOOOOOVED Keith Partridge until all my older, more fickle friends soon declared him "over" (after indoctrinating me into their cult of Keith). Sadly, I took my Tiger Beat photos off the wall, and moved on to Davy Jones, who was more my size anyway. I appreciate this last little burst of youthful David Cassidy.
Another post on IMDB mentioned that the film, while resembling 70s-era Southern California, was actually filmed in sunny Alameda, right across the Bay from San Francisco. Nice job, location scouts.
Redd Kross - 1976