Instead of wracking my brain trying to figure out this film's timeline, I should just listen to Eddie Wilson when he says: "It's about the music, man." While I have to admit, that's some top notch advice. I would still like to know when Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! takes place (and, yes, the exclamation mark in the film's title is totally justified). Okay, let me take one more stab at it before switching to a more stimulating topic. The original Eddie and the Cruisers flipped back and forth between 1963 and 1983, and... You know what, who cares? I mean, so what if Michael Paré was only five or six years old in 1963, I totally bought him as a troubled rock star who faked his death in the 1960s and is now working as a construction worker in late 1980s Montreal. I'm telling you, if you flush away all the doubts in your head regarding the film's wonky timeline, you'll discover that this film kinda rocks. Sure, everyone from the original film except for Michael Paré and Matthew Laurance is missing in action. But again, I have to sort of quote Eddie Wilson: "It's about the music, man."
In other words, it's not about the actors, the script, or even the direction, it's about–you got it–the music... man.
The next point I'm about to make is on the cusp of being timeline related, so please bear with me. Don't get me wrong, I dig your music, Eddie Wilson (or should I say, Joe West), I really do, it's just that I'm having trouble buying that people living in late 1980s Montreal would go nuts for Chuck Berry inspired rock 'n' roll, especially when you take in account the city's synth-pop pedigree (Trans-X, Men Without Hats, Rational Youth).
It reminds me of that heinous scene from the WKRP in Cincinnati episode, "Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide: Part 2" where Dr. Johnny Fever stops acting like his alter ego "Rip Tide," the host of a televised dance music show, and lashes out against his disco-loving overlords. It doesn't seem to matter that the audience is filled with disco fans, he manages to convince them that disco does in fact suck by merely spinning a rock 'n' roll record.
That being said, I'm not a big fan of realism. And besides, why does a film about a made up band have to reflect the tastes of the period? It doesn't. And just like the film's "wonky timeline," I'm going to have to except the fact that Montrealers love their old time rock 'n' roll.
After opening with a guitar lick, the film, directed by Jean-Claude Lord (Visiting Hours), hits us with the classic piano intro to "On the Dark Side," one of the stand out songs from the first chapter in the Eddie Wilson saga.
Now, when sequels allude to the previous film, it usually backfires, as it reminds us of how great the first one was. And by opening with "On the Dark Side," Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! is at risk of having that exact thing happen.
Well, after seeing the film from start to finish, I can safely say that this sequel has nothing to worry about, as not only are the songs (co-written and sung by John Cafferty) just as good as the one's from the first film, I'd go as far as to say that they're better.
I know, that sounds like kooky talk. But I'm serious, "Runnin' Thru the Fire," "A Matter Of Time," "NYC" and "Some Like It Hot" are all barn-burners of the highest order.
What happened to Eddie Wilson (Michael Paré) after his car crashed through a guard rail and landed in the river in 1964? According to this film, he changed his name to Joe West, grew a mustache, moved to Montreal, and became a construction worker; and get this, he's a Habs fan!
Meanwhile, the legend of Eddie Wilson continues to grow around the world. Eddie's record company, Satin Records (the same Satin Records who rejected his sophomore album for being too arty), are still hoping to exploit the reemerged interest in his music.
When Eddie/Joe hears about an Eddie Wilson lookalike contest being held in New York City, he decides to drive down to take a look-see. I know he has a mustache now, but why didn't anyone recognize him? I mean, the real Eddie Wilson is standing in the crowd at an Eddie Wilson lookalike contest.
Either way, you know almost immediately that Satin Records' Dave Pagent (Michael Rhoades) is not to be trusted the second you see that he's rocking a sports coat with a pair of jeans.
Seeing the Eddie Wilson clones lip-sync to his music in black sleeveless t-shirts must have inspired the real Eddie Wilson, because he starts working on songs the second he gets back to Montreal. Obviously a tad burnt out, Eddie decides to unwind by taking in a Habs game with one of his construction worker buddies. It's here that Eddie/Joe meets Diane Armani (Marina Orsini), an artist who wants to paint his portrait.
If you're wondering why Diane, an attractive brunette, would want to paint a portrait of a construction worker she met at a hockey game. It's simple, really, she thinks he has an amazing face. In case you forgot, Eddie/Joe is played by Michael Paré, who is still hunky, still cool and still pleased to meet ya.
Even though Eddie/Joe rejects Diane's offer, she doesn't give up. The following night, Eddie/Joe is at a nightclub. There he buys a drink for Hilton Overstreet (Anthony Sherwood), the band's sax player. Overhearing their conversation, the band's guitar player, Rick Diesel (Bernie Coulson), challenges Eddie/Joe to put his money where his mouth is (I think I'm using that idiom correctly). Anyway, Eddie/Joe goes on stage and blows everyone away, including Diane, who must have followed him there. Um, stalker much?
After multiple attempts to get Eddie/Joe to join his band, Rick Diesel finally manages to convince him, but only if they hire a new drummer, bass player and keyboardist. These slots are filled by Charlie (Paul Markle), Quinn Quinley (Mark Holmes) and Stewart (David Matheson).
As Eddie/Joe's music career is getting back on track, he also finds time for romance, as Eddie/Joe and Diane become an item. In fact, they become so close, you can drop the whole "Eddie/Joe" charade when referencing them. That's right, Eddie confesses to Diane that he is in fact Eddie Wilson. While I wouldn't say that I got chills when Eddie says, "I'm Eddie Wilson" to Diane, it's still a pretty awesome moment.
The rest of the movie involves Eddie/Joe and Rick Diesel butting heads over the direction they want to the band to take. On the one hand, Eddie/Joe, being a perfectionist, wants the band to practice ("I won't short cut the music!), while Rick Diesel wants the band to start playing gigs. These clashes get a little tiresome after awhile, but the four songs I mentioned earlier manage to smooth things over in the end. Ultimately leading to a highly satisfying conclusion.
Oh, I'd be remiss not to mention that Martha Quinn in this movie. Now, I've said in the past that pointing out Martha Quinn in movies is sort of my thing. But Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! is a little different, in that this is probably Martha Quinn's biggest film role to date.
When she first appears onscreen, as the host of "Rock TV News," I was like, Yay, Martha Quinn! Then, get this, she appears a second time. I thought myself: Two Martha Quinn appearances in the same movie?!? This is crazy. Well, I hope you're sitting down, because Martha Quinn appears onscreen a third time! Three times!!! Can you believe this? Okay, I'm going to go relax.