Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Dec. 17, 1999
ShagD: Zelda Barron (1989); with Bridget Fonda, Annabeth Gish, Page Hannah, Phoebe Cates, Scott Coffey, Robert Rusler, Tyrone Power Jr., Carrie Hamilton, Leilani Sarelle.
In a girls-go-to-the-beach film like this, the danger is that it will turn into Where the Boys Are. Banish all thoughts of that bit of early Sixties fluff; Shag is delightful and utterly watchable. In the South circa 1963, Fonda, Gish, and Hannah shanghai their girlfriend, the prissy Carson McBride (Cates), into a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she will meet her destiny, or least someone other than her fiancé. Fonda plays rebellious Melaina Buller, defying her preacher father to go with pal Caroline "Pudge" Carmichael (Gish), whose nickname no longer describes her slimmed-down figure. Driving the gang is the senator's daughter LuAnne Clatterback (Hannah), the Jiminy Cricket of the group and the one deeply concerned with appearance and morals. The event of the weekend is a dance contest for a regional dance called "the Shag," in which couples vie to win first place. But even before the dancing starts, the fun is in full gear. First, there are the local girls (Hamilton, Sarelle) who don't cotton to the out-of-towners flirting with their boyfriends or entering their contests. Then there are the local boys (Coffey, Rusler) who like the visitors just fine. There's not a lot script-wise to distinguish Shag from most fun-in-the-sun movies, but the cast and acting raise this ultimately charming film from sleeper to cult status without stooping to pointless sex or nudity. Notable performances are given by the four leads, but Hamilton (you know, Carol Burnett's daughter) gives an outstanding turn as the beach-town bad girl Nadine making trouble for the tourists any way she can. The dance sequence finale is marvelously filmed, by turns exciting and nostalgic for anyone who remembers what Spring Break and summertime were like before MTV took over.