Fraser. Sandler. Buscemi. All three of these actors are now household names but in 1994 they were still mostly unknown. Adam Sandler was a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" and had released a comedy album but his film experience was limited to a small role in the SNL vehicle "Coneheads". It would be another couple years until he broke out in films like "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore". By this point Steve Buscemi had racked up an impressive number of roles but with the exception of 1992's "Reservoir Dogs" none were start making material. He had a steady paycheck coming to him though as he makes appearances in many of the Coen Brother's films. Meanwhile a kid by the name of Brendan Fraser had just finished a film called "Encino Man" a somewhat funny movie where some kids dig up a caveman in their backyard. After a string of cameo appearances in other Pauly Shore movies, Brendan would go on to star in cartoon based movies like 1997's "George of the Jungle" and 1999's "Dudley Do Right". However it was another 1999 picture that launched Brendan Fraser into super stardom. The film was "The Mummy" which made a large sum of money and went on to spawn this summer's $200+ million sequel "The Mummy Returns". Now with Sandler and Fraser commanding large sums of money and Buscemi cracking me up in all that he appears it's time to take a look back at an early film where they all worked together.
The story line is quite simple. Chaz (Brendan Fraser) is the leader of a heavy metal band who haven't hit it big. He and his friends Rex (Steve Buscemi) and Pip (Adam Sandler) are "The Lone Rangers" a band that is one step away from stardom. The only problem is they don't have a record contract. Chaz spends the majority of the time slacking at home living off his girlfriend Kayla (Amy Locane) and occasionally trying to sneak in to meet record executives. After getting kicked out of his apartment again and seeing a local rock band do a concert it becomes clear to Chaz what he needs to do and that is get the song on the radio. If only it were as easy as it seems. Chaz, Rex and Pip head down to the local rock station KPPX where they hope that the local DJ Ian (Joe Mantegna) will spin there track on the air. Once they manage to get in they begin talking to Ian but he explains that he has little control over things and that the PD Milo (Michael McKean) would have to ok it. Suddenly one of the 3 brings out a gun and now the station manager is all too happy to comply. Thing is the tape is in an old format that they aren't setup to play. Luckily the station still has one reel to reel machine but it's not in good condition and of course it ruins the tape. This leaves the boys in an awkward situation as the only other copy of the demo is in the hands of Kayla and well Chaz isn't really on speaking terms with her. Also adding to their problems is that there guns are plastic and things get are getting heated with hostages wanting to leave and the police trying to take control.
Those of you liable to watch "Airheads" will likely be able to figure out how it all ends early on in the proceedings. It's not rocket science and it's mostly the same gag used over and over again for about an hour and 1/2. The film's gags all surround various situations at the radio station. People trying to escape, people trying to return and people trying to gain control of the situation. Writer Rich Wilkes who wrote "The Jerky Boys" and the underrated stoner gem "The Stoned Age" does have some good material here but it's not nearly enough for a feature length film. Wilkes manages to use every stereotypical joke in the book that has anything to do with radio. Sure some of it's funny but it's not consistently funny and there are dry patches. If not for the cast this film wouldn't be nearly as good as it is.
The one major plus that makes this movie worth watching is the cast. In addition to the leads the film does feature some great comedic talent in supporting roles. Micheal McKean best known for his role in "This is Spinal Tap" is great as the slimy station manager whose more concerned with money then music. Seinfeld Alum Micheal Richards gives a performance that couldn't be anymore different then that of Kosmo Kramer. Richards plays the role of a new station employee who finds himself trapped inside the building but hidden away from the hijackers. Joe Mantegna is also quite good as the DJ that is at least a few years past his prime. Brat packer Judd Nelson also appears in a small role as a record exec as does Sandler's fellow SNL cast mate Chris Farley as a rookie cop on his first big assignment. Also along for the ride is David Arquette ("Scream") as a hostage who actually likes being held.
"Airheads" is a movie I stumbled on a couple years back while flipping channels on TV. I had remembered seeing an ad for it on the back of numerous comics when I worked in a comic store. By this time Adam and Brendan were semi-stars and I was just getting interested in radio. I enjoyed the movie at the time thinking it was pretty funny. In the years that passed I've seen it a couple more times on the tube. It does have it's funny moments some of which are really quite good but it's not consistently funny. Some of the gags wear thing pretty fast. The cast of Sandler, Fraser and Buscemi no doubt help the proceedings along as they mesh together well and the supporting cast helps out too. "Airheads" isn't a particularly smart comedy and it does have it's weaker points but it's performances really make it worth checking out. Having seen the movie on TV a couple months back I think it was too soon in between viewings for me to get the full enjoyment out of the picture. I think I'll stick "Airheads" on the shelf for another year before digging it out again. A decent comedy that's worth a look if not for anything other reason then it's stellar cast.
Movie Rating : 7/10
VIDEO: When I sit down to review a Fox title I'm usually assured of one thing and that is regardless of the age of the film I'm going to be treated to the best transfer possible. While there have been a few exceptions no studio is perfect and Fox certainly has far more hits then misses in their transfers. "Airheads" is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer which really goes without saying. As "Airheads" is a comedy I wasn't really expecting as visual a movie as it ended up being. Shot by John Schwartzmen a regular cinematographer for Michael Bay, the film does at least offer an interesting visual every now and then. The film is generally pretty sharp and although it's not as detailed as some other discs the level of detail is still excellent. The color palette is nice and bright and warm with no instances of smearing or bleeding. Problems are few and far between with only one or two minor dust marks appearing on the print used. The condition of the print used is pretty impressive as I've seen transfers of newer films with more dust and scratches on them. The disc is free of pixelation, grain and edge enhancement. Although this disc isn't really reference quality it's still a top notch effort with no real problems. Another excellent catalog transfer from Fox.
Video Rating : 9/10
SOUND: "Airheads" hit theaters during a transitional time for movie audio. DTS had just made it's debut months earlier with "Jurrassic Park" and Dolby AC-3 in the 5.1 variety was still a relatively new thing. It would take a year or two before the majority of releases would go this new route. As such Fox released "Airheads" in DD 4.0 which is also the primary audio track on this DVD edition. While not an all around spectacular mix "Airheads" does have a few things going for it. The mix is extremely front focused with very little usage of the rear speakers. The key element here is the heavy alternative rock soundtrack which definitely packs a punch in the front speakers. Dialogue is firmly anchored in the center channel and is for the most part clear and easy to make out. There is a bit of harshness early on but that fixed itself quite quickly. The rear speakers are only used once or twice throughout the picture and even then it's not noticeable unless your really listening for it. If your looking for split surround effects your going to be hard pressed to find anything of that nature on this disc. For the most part this is your typical comedy mix which has been done before and will likely be done again. Still all of the elements are well presented and generally problem free. It's a very listenable audio track but certainly won't knock your socks off as there's nothing creative here. Also included are DD 2.0 mixes in English and French.
Audio Rating : 8.5/10
EXTRAS::Released alongside "The Scout" and Universal's "The Mummy Returns" as part of the unofficial Brendan Fraser week "Airheads" fairs better then most Fox catalog releases in the extras department.
First up is a 15 minute promotional piece entitled "Airheads Special Report". This special report is a promotional making of featurette covered up as a mock news cast. It's nothing more then your run of the mill making of feature though. However, I welcome the fresh approach taken here.
Since "Airheads" is a film about music you'd expect there to be some music videos on the disc and indeed there are as the disc contains the videos for "Born to Raise Hell" by Motorhead, rapper Ice-T and Whitfield Crane and "Feed the Gods" by White Zombie. Both songs are a little heavy for my liking and I'm not the world's biggest music video fan. I doubt I'll get around to watching these again anytime soon.
As this is a Fox release you can generally count on a trailer gallery for films that have some relation to the film itself either by genre or star. So in addition to the theatrical trailer and TV spots for "Airheads" this disc also houses trailers for other Brendan Fraser titles namely "Bedazzled", "The Scout" (also released on 10/2) and "Monkeybone".
Extras Rating : 5/10
Final Thoughts: "Airheads" isn't the world's funniest motion picture and it doesn't really hold up as well as I would have liked on subsequent viewings. There are some comedies I can watch again and again or over and over and never get tired of. To me "Airheads" isn't one of these. Now it could just be that I had seen the film quite recently before reviewing this disc. In fact that probably has a lot to do with it. "Airheads" is however a moderately entertaining comedy with 2 pretty big name stars in Adam Sandler and Brendan Fraser and one of the most underrated comedians working today Steve Buscemi. Diehard fans of the film will be more then pleased with the audio/video quality of the disc but will likely be a bit disappointed with the extras. Fans of anyone in the cast would be best to give this film a rent first. Still if you prefer to buy you should be able to pick this disc up pretty cheaply as it carries a $19.95 price tag.
Disc Rating : 7.5/10
Review by Mark McLeod October 16, 2001