Totally Awesome (2006)
Directed by Neal Brennan
Written by Neal Brennan & Michael Schur

I wasn't entirely sure watching Totally Awesome whether it was making fun of 80s movies or making fun of making fun of 80s movies. Using the Scary Movie approach of mostly just referencing well-known movies (in this case, Sixteen Candles, Dirty Dancing, The Karate Kid, Footloose, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Pretty in Pink), Totally Awesome seems to deal in simple familiarity as opposed to actual parody. No matter who the joke is actually supposed to be on, the film is a pretty mediocre excursion, although there are enough lame chuckles here and there to make it a decent enough time-waster.

The "plot" amalgamates the aforementioned movies to tell the "story" of Charlie (Mikey Day), the "new kid," trying to win the affection of "popular girl" Kimberly (Brittany Daniel) away from her preppie-asshole boyfriend Kipp (Joey Kern), which he does by "training" with the unnecessarily gay Mr. Miyagi-figure Yamagashi (James Hong) and the fairly hilarious "cool black guy" Darnell (Tracy Morgan), all the while missing the fact that his "true love" is right under his nose: plain-jane platonic girlfriend Billie (Nicki Clyne).

Meanwhile, Charlie's sister Lori (Dominique Swain, who at one point was supposed to be the next big thing, remember that?) enters into a forbidden relationship with former dance instructor Gabriel (a puffy Chris Kattan), who was the school dance instructor prior to the town's ban on dancing.

All of this provides the expected fodder for exploiting 80s movie clichés, although by now even parodying these clichés is itself an arguably more clichéd cliché. The tone is breezy and underachieving enough to prevent TA from being as irritating as something like The Wedding Singer … but not by much.

At various points, the movie has Ben Stein pop in to provide commentary explaining the jokes and references, with the conceit that TA is in fact a "lost" movie actually made in the 80s. But it is in this aspect that TA hedges its bets too pathetically, almost like they want to make sure everyone knows it's supposed to be funny. But as the saying goes, if you have to explain it, it isn't funny.

Ultimately TA aims its ammo not at the people who recall 80s movies fondly from their own teen years, but at the people one generation on, who recall 80s movies only through the prism of subsequent pop-culture saturation. In that respect, this movie could really only be admirable had it been made by some 15-year-olds and uploaded to YouTube.

Review by Darla Denny