Vibes (1988)


USA. 1988.


Director – Ken Kwapis, Screenplay – Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel, Producers – Tony Ganz & Deborah Blum, Photography – John Bailey, Music – James Horner, Visual Effects – The Boss Film Co (Supervisor – Richard Edlund), Special Effects Supervisor – Thaine Morris, Production Design – Richard Sawyer. Production Company – Imagine Entertainment


Cyndi Lauper (Sylvia Pickel), Jeff Goldblum (Nick Deezy), Peter Falk (Harry Buscafusco), Googy Gress (Ingo Swedlin), Julian Sands (Dr Harrison Steele), Ronald Joseph (Carl), Michael Lerner (Burt Wilder)


Medium Sylvia Pickel and psychometrist Nick Deezy meet at a parapsychological research centre. She propositions him but he declines. She is then approached by the bumbling Harry Buscafusco who wants them to come to Ecuador and use their psychic powers to find his missing son. Sylvia persuades Nick to join them. After they arrive, it is revealed that Harry is not searching for his son but a treasure horde in the mountains. Followed by a group of shady psychics, they discover the treasure is not one of gold but a pyramid that contains vast psychic forces.

This adventure-comedy-fantasy comes from two of the co-writers of Ron Howard’s hit comedy Splash! (1984). The film was produced by Howard’s Imagine Entertainment production company, with Ken Kwapis, who had inauspiciously debuted with the Sesame Street film Follow That Bird (1985), in the director’s chair. It was clear attempt to make another light-hearted supernatural knockabout comedy in the vein of the then recent success of Ghostbusters (1984).

Vibes has all the elements to be funny. Instead, in the buttered hands of Ken Kwapis, it has the lightness of a lead balloon. Much of the character-building humour between Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum is shrill and hysterically unfunny – although to be fair the dialogue and banter sometimes has a bouncy amiability. The effects and production values are amazingly tatty for the budget involved, not to mention the usually sterling reputation of the Boss Co and Richard Edlund, known for their work on Ghostbusters and 2010 (1984). The last quarter, where the film emerges into a special effects vehicle centred around a generic device of all-important, world-threatening power, is flaccid and dull.

The only life the film has is a joyful performance from 1980s pop bimbo queen Cyndi Lauper, making her screen debut. She demonstrates an amazing range of screwed-up, face-mincing expressions and smart-ass cynicisms, all delivered in baby-doll voice. Many will not find her their cup of tea but can hardly deny she adds what small life there is to the film. Jeff Goldblum gives a wet-eared schmuck roles and only takes a backseat to Lauper. The film itself was a box-office flop.

Ken Kwapis subsequently went onto make the likes of He Said, She Said (1991), Dunston Checks In (1996), The Beautician and the Beast (1997), The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (2005), He’s Just Not That Into You (2009) and A Walk in the Woods (2015).

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