1994, PG-13, 92 min. Directed by Michael Lehmann. Starring Brandon Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Michael Richards, Michael McKean, Amy Locane, Joe Mantegna.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 12, 1994
Poor Michael Lehmann's career path is following that same downward spiral as Michael Cimino's: one brilliant film, and then... nothing. Or worse than nothing. Cimino had his Deer Hunter and Lehmann had his Heathers, but neither one has done anything of note since then. Airheads is, unfortunately, no exception. Lehmann's newest (following, heh heh, Hudson Hawk) chronicles the misadventures of a trio of metalheads as they try to get radio airplay for their demo tape. Called The Lone Rangers (!), Chazz (Fraser), Rex (Buscemi), and his little bro Pip (Sandler) eventually decide to hijack an L.A. metal station and force the jock on the air to play their tape. Armed with evil-looking black water pistols, they run afoul of the LAPD (who doesn't?) when a bumbling station toady played by Seinfeld's Michael Richards manages to excape unnoticed into the air conditioning ducts and then calls in The Man on his cellular. Along with jock-on-duty Ian (Mantegna), the bumbling, bickering trio take hostage the station manager (the ever-unctuous McKean), a lowly surfer guy, Suzzi (“With two Zs”), the receptionist, and a couple of other studio folks. When their copy of the demo is destroyed by an errant reel-to-reel, Chazz and company must bide their time making up outlandish “demands” (a giant baby bottle, a football helmet filled with cottage cheese, new equipment) while stalling for the arrival of record company suits and the spare demo. Lehmann can't seem to make up his mind if this is an outright comedy or a social satire along the line of This is Spinal Tap, which, naturally, results in virtually nothing. Every so often, the film grinds to a halt as Chazz is allowed time to pontificate on what it means to be in a band (“Hey, man, I am rock & roll!”) and how awful musicians are treated by The Industry. Like we don't already know that? Yeesh. Buscemi and Sandler, excellent in other venues (Reservoir Dogs and Saturday Night Live, respectively) are wasted here, reduced to cardboard cutouts of rock & roll clichés. Lehmann has dropped the ball -- or the pick, whichever the case may be -- again. Instead of playing up the inherently silly, goofy nature of heavy metal, he sinks to its level, offering nothing more than the occasional chuckle and some ratty old combat boots.