Pesce-ing in the Wind: Body Waves (1992)

It may have Roger Corman producing, and it may have a cameo from Dick Miller, but Dave struggles with this nerd-filled ’90s comedy.

The sight of Floridian journeyman P.J. Pesce in the director’s chair could well generate a little excitement for this beach-based Roger Corman comedy, but the presence of hack co-writer Bo Zenga (Soul Plane (2004), Stan Helsing (2009)) guarantees that this turkey will plunder brain cells from you and never give them back.

Pesce was fresh out of Graduate Film School, where he’d studied under both Martin Scorsese and Brian de Palma, and the turn of the millennium would go on to see him rival Roel Reine in terms of helming lucrative sequels to a handful of healthy box office successes. From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999), Sniper 3 (2004), and Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) were all serviceable franchise entries – although the jewel in Pesce’s career is the immense cable western, The Desperate Trail (1994).

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that BODY WAVES remains absent from the filmmaker’s Wikipedia page – and long may it languish in obscurity, quite frankly. Opening with the mock thrash metal track The Ballad of Ano-Recto Man, penned by Pesce himself alongside Billy Woo and Dan Golden, we meet Rick Matthews (Bill Calvert): the reluctant heir apparent to his father’s (Dick Miller) haemorrhoid cream business. Unwilling to look after the family trade while his folks are on holiday (“But you can give a little relief to a lot of guys!”), Rick’s Dad gives him the ultimatum of making a few grand in the time they’re away or he’ll “be out of the family and out on the street”.

Teaming up with his best buddy Dooner (Jim Wise), the two fail miserably with a scheme to sell Oil Slick-branded suntan lotion, so instead look to three dweebs to revitalise their dwindling finances. Squirrely (Michael McDonald), Joe (John Crane), and Larry (Marc Grapey) channel Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and turn it up to eleven, so any assistance in jump-starting their non-existent sex lives will ensure the geeky trio alleviate Rick and Dooner’s fiscal woes in gratitude.

Beginning with a ternary of irrelevant dream sequences in the first eleven minutes, while peppering the dialogue with more “dudes” than your average Charles Band vid-cast, Body Waves spares no time in making your teeth itch with irritation. Frustratingly, there’s a sub-plot buried in the picture that would have made a good movie, whereby Rick’s love interest Stacy (Leah Lail), a DJ at the local radio station, finds her job threatened by right-wing puritan Himmel (Larry Linville) – a hate-monger who wants to take the station over and use it to spread his rhetoric. Alas, it’s a thread relegated to a footnote in favour of gormless hijinks that raise a laugh only once (a savage takedown of Vanilla Ice).

Wise, Crane, and Grapey went on to be staff writers on MADtv, but Zenga and Pesce’s leaden script has none of the finely-honed wit of that long running sketch show, and it’s only the attractive and personable Lail who escapes from the movie with her dignity intact. And the legendary Miller, of course, but that goes without saying.

USA ● 1992 ● Comedy ● 84mins

Bill Calvert, Leah Lail, Larry Linville, Dick Miller ● Dir. P.J. Pesce ● Wri. Bo Zenga, P.J. Pesce

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