Monday, July 12, 2010

The Malibu Bikini Shop (David Wechter, 1986)

Strange as it may sound, but the brightly coloured bits of fabric used to cover specific parts of the female anatomy end up altering the vocational trajectory of a wannabe yuppie in The Malibu Bikini Shop (a.k.a. Der Bikini Shop), a jarring look at the day-to-day grind of working at a store that sells skimpy swimsuits in a beachfront environment. Opening with a dizzying array of shots featuring faceless female torsos pawing and grabbing at the uncompromising tightness of their newly acquired bathing garments, the firm film tells the story of a young man forced to choose between guaranteed comfort and unknown chaos. While it's telling this plucky little tale, writer-director David Wechter (Midnight Madness) makes sure there's always something jiggling in the background. Of course, all this undulating flesh could cause some problems, as mixing conventional storytelling with the distracting splendour of scantily clad ladies in bikinis has been a high-risk enterprise since the dawn of time. Yet the way the film managed to jump back and forth between the two distinct realms was a thing of beauty. Maintaining its narrative integrity, while at the same time generously providing the titillating eye candy certain members of the audience crave, cinema doesn't get anymore well-balanced than this. Now I realize there's no way to actually prove this, but I guarantee that both your brain and your genitals will be smiling smugly at one another after witnessing the temperamental cohesion that is at work here.

Celebrating his recent college graduation at the palatial home of his soon to be father-in-law, Alan (Michael David Wright) learns that his Aunt Ida in California has vacated the world of the living. When he arrives to put her affairs in order, Alan finds out that he has inherited her beloved bikini shop. While unamused by this turn of events–after all, he's got a plum job lined up and is engaged to a woman named Jane (Debra Blee)–his less motivated brother Todd (Bruce Greenwood) couldn't be more pleased.

Well, for one thing, Todd gets to fraternize with the comely employees of Ida's Bikini Shop; primarily Cindy (Galyn Görg) and Kathy (Ami Julius). A third employee named Ronnie (Barbara Horan) remains off Todd's radar mainly because Alan is transfixed by the budding fashion designer the moment he enters the shop.

Anyway, the buttoned-down Alan spends the majority of his time trying to sell shop, with the help of Mr. Remington (Frank "Yessssss" Nelson), an associate of the late Ida, while the mischievous Todd takes to the cotton-challenged macrocosm of swimwear sales.

As you would expect, the brothers clash repeatedly over their respective ambitions pertaining to the beach-based bikini outlet. And as I already sort of said, the repressed Alan wants to put the whole bikini affair behind him so he can get back to his fiancé and cushy job at his father-in-law's tire factory. On the other hand, Todd sees the bikini business as an opportunity to prove to the world that he is not a complete screw up. (We learn that his plan to open a chain of solar-powered hot dog carts in Seattle didn't go as well as expected.)

Impulsive to the extreme, Todd's madcap enthusiasm for all things bikini-related end up sabotaging every single one of Alan's attempts to sell the shop. The most flagrant example of this was when a couple of snooty buyers drop by just as Todd was in the middle of putting on a well-attended suntan contest outside the shop.

Surprisingly, the most awesome aspect of this glorified sunburn symposium wasn't the gratuitous nature of the contest–you, know, with all the half-naked ladies hurling their sunbaked bodies across the makeshift stage as Bruce Greenwood humped the air in nothing but jean shorts and a ratty tank top. But the fact all the contestants mention their full names before they commenced with the gyrating. I know that doesn't sound very awesome. But think about it, the first dancer (my fave and pick to win the whole shebang) said her name was Sheri Andrews. You see what I'm getting at? That's one more name than any of the lead characters have. I was blown away by this seemingly minor detail.

I also liked it when asked what her ambition in life was, Sheri Andrews answered, "I don't know." Call me someone who is prone to making careless mistakes, but I found Sheri Andrew's indecisiveness to be extremely sexy. In addition, there's nothing more obnoxious than a bikini model with well thought out goals. At any rate, Sheri Andrews is played by a human being named Christie Jakowpck and I thought she looked fabulous in her tri-colourd bikini.

Speaking of indecision, Alan eventually decides he that wants to keep the bikini shop (the lure of Ronnie and her tight bikini bottoms were no doubt a deciding factor). Unfortunately, he has already sold it to some transcendental cult looking to expand their global reach. To get the lease back, Alan, Todd, Ronnie, Cindy and Kathy must raise six thousand American dollars in a two weeks.

Sure, it's the middle of July, but still, that's a lot of bikinis.

The rarest weapon in any film's cinematic arsenal, The Malibu Bikini Shop gives us the sewing montage to end all sewing montages. I may regret saying this, but I think it's the greatest montage ever to involve stitching and synthesizers simultaneously. The resulting fashion show was just awe-inspiring, as it features Ami Julius and Galyn Görg prancing around in military inspired two-pieces. Smoke-filled and peppered with spotlights, the dreamlike display of Ronnie's camouflaged garments was the perfect companion to the intense tailoring that preceded it.

The idea that the general public would go completely gaga to cover their tender areas with green and black fabric wasn't too far-fetched, as I recall there being one month at my school where every other student was wearing camouflaged shirts and trousers.

Out of all the actresses who appeared in The Beach Girls, Debra Blee was the last one I expected to give a performance filled with shrill nuance and spiteful disdain. Playing Jane, the overly demanding fiancé, Miss Blee throws aside her docile tendencies and fully embraces her inner harpy.

Tossing himself across the screen with the vigour of a displaced rag doll, Bruce Greenwood utters party animal platitudes with a frenzied sense of desperation. Uncouth and disjointed like every other slob you see in movies like this, Bruce seemed to add an extra layer humanity to his slovenly creation.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned work of Debra and Bruce were the only performances in The Malibu Bikini Shop to merit any praise, as Michael David Wright and the others seemed to be lacking key attributes. Particularly one's that are crucial when it comes to creating a memorable character. They don't sink the film entirely, they just prevent it from attaining its rightful status as the best movie to be set in and around the daily operation of a shop that sells garish clothing intended to cover the lumps and crevices that our overly prudish society deem indecent.

video uploaded by TexasGuy09


  1. Ms. Sheri Andrews gets extra props for not only her tri-coloured suit, but being able to sport the tan lines from a completely different suit. I think it shows great daring.

  2. OMG. I wonder which film Monsieur Greenwood would leave off his resume first: this one, or Racing Stripes?

    This film was made pre-St. Elsewhere. Vintage Bruce!

    I can't believe you used the phrase "narrative integrity" in this review of Der Bikini Shop. LOL.

    Oh, to answer your question, we have had similar complaints about our film choices this year, namely, there are no good choices! I wanted to see The A-Team; d. wanted to see Toy Story Whatever. We didn't see either. :( However, the drought may be over: we're seeing Inception this weekend.

  3. Darius Whiteplume: Excellent observation, Darius Whiteplume. By sporting tan lines from a previous sunbathing session (and, like you said, from a completely different suit), Sheri Andrews managed to project an aura that practically reeked of commitment.

    Karim Amir: If I saw Bruce Greenwood walking down the street, I would totally yell out (in an Italian accent, of course): "Hey, it's the guy from The Malibu Bikini Shop!"

    Vintage Bruce, indeed.

    I'm sorry I couldn't post more screencaps that feature Bruce. Unfortunately, I don't own a copy of the film, and most of the pics floating around online were bikini-centric (in other words, Bruce-free).

    Toy Story Whatever... I think it's the third one. ;)

    I might see Inception... you know, despite the fact that it's super-long and doesn't look that funny.

  4. Inception has one of the best casts in recent memory--Cillian, J G-L, my lady crush Marion Cotillard, some British guy named Tom Hardy who was off my radar. Shoot, there's even something for us Eddie and the Cruisers fans--Tom Berenger has a role. I didn't even mind Juno and Leo. We liked it.

    To bring the conversation back to Bruce, I just saw him in the trailer for Dinner for Schmucks. Jemaine's in it, too. :D

    And if I ever saw Tim Robbins, I'd yell, "We love the Swanky Modes!" Or maybe a line from Shawshank. :) He's probably used to the latter. I saw his (former) other half in a grocery store in Maine. Seriously.

    Dude, did you run the Canadian province category on Jeopardy! the other night. I did. d. was impressed.

    Double rainbow all the way:

  5. You didn't mind Ellen Page?!? That's encouraging.

    I've noticed a lot of love for Marion Cotillard in the non-straight male community.

    A fellow blogger wrote that Tom Hardy and J G-L were "awesome" in Inception.

    Does Jemaine wear a Garfunkel wig in the Schmucks movie? If not, I'm not going. ;)

    Swanky Modes is a Tapeheads reference.

    Of course I did! In fact, I ran the shit out of it. ;)

    Jimmy Fallon and Martha Stewart were talking YouTube clips the other night, and the double rainbow guy came up in the conversation.

    Speaking of late night talk shows, Kilby's back and he's still snarky.

  6. I just read about Kilby in the new EW. The issue also contains a blurb about this new Rob Sheffield book, which apparently contains a chapter on Haysi Fantayzee. WTF?

    While Jemaine is not sporting a Garfunkel wig (lol), there is a funny scene in the trailer that features his character shaking hands with Nelson Mandela.

  7. I had to do a double-take when you said that there was a book with a "chapter" on Haysi Fantayzee. I mean, I can understand a couple of loosely thrown together sentences, but an entire chapter? Weird, wild stuff.

    Nelson Mandela is in Dinner for Schmucks?!?

  8. A bit passe, but thanks again for your excellent review of PINBALL SUMMER a few weeks back. I just recieved the DVD in the mail and it was everything I'd hoped for.

    Furthermore, thanks for the fine write-up of MALIBU BIKINI SHOP. I have a copy hosted by Rhonda Shear (USA UP ALL NIGHT) that I've had for months unwatched, but now have the proper motivation (bad acting not withstanding).

    Only discovering your blog a couple months back, it's quickly become a favorite.

  9. Cool. I'm glad my words have motivated you to watch this electrifying piece of filmed entertainment.

  10. This sounds all kind of hilarious.

    I noticed the tan lines, too, Darius!

  11. As someone who never looked too hot in a bikini, you'd think I'd hate these kind of movies featuring all that 80s perfection I could never attain, but I love 'em! Do you hear me?!? I LOVE THEM.

    I saw this movie a couple of years ago and couldn't believe it was Bruce Greenwood. He's so cute. My fiance (who adores these kinds of movies to no end) and I really thought it was fun. We talk about it every so often to this day. So either, it's a good movie, or we are just super boring.

    btw, thank you for reminding me of the sewing montage scene. Hilarious.

  12. I know what you mean. I hate the beach and sunny weather in general, but can't help watch movies that shamelessly extol their blister-inducing virtues.

    Must love dogs, romantic walks on the beach, candlelit dinners and The Malibu Bikini Shop.

    No problem. The sewing montage was not only entertaining, it was also mildly educational.

  13. This film is hilarious but I wouldn't enjoy it nearly half as much if it wasn't for the frankly gorgeous Bruce Greenwood!!!!

    On a side note, Ami Julius is married to Adam Baldwin (yes, Jayne from Firefly)