Psychics Sylvia Pickel (Cyndi Lauper) and Nick Deezy (Jeff Goldblum) are hired by a mysterious man (Peter Falk) to find an ancient treasure in South America. As they trek through Ecuador, their supernatural skills lead them straight into danger, disaster and romance. When the ancient ruins unleash an evil paranormal power, Sylvia and Nick must join psychic forces to save the world.
Vibes is a star-studded supernatural comedy that features Jeff Goldblum, Peter Falk, Julian Sands and Steve Buscemi, and marks the acting debut of Cyndi Lauper.
eyelights: the gorgeousness of Ecuador. the beautiful score.
eyesores: the lack of chemistry between the leads. Jeff Goldblum’s mugging. Cyndi Lauper’s accent.
“What’s your problem, aside from your face?”
When Cindy Lauper hit the scene, back in 1983, with her best-selling ‘She’s So Unusual’ and its chart-topping singles, critics were convinced of that she would be in the public eye for a long time; they compared her to Madonna and incorrectly guessed that, given her talent, she would eclipse the latter.
Oh, how they were wrong.
While Lauper had the greater success out of the starting gate, by the time her second album was released in 1986, she was already losing the public’s interest; ‘True Colors’ was a hit, but a much lesser one. Meanwhile, Madonna had hammered out two more albums, both of which outsold ‘She’s So Unusual’.
I still remember the vague sense of indifference that I felt when Lauper’s lead single “True Colors” came out. I wasn’t much of a fan to start with, as I found her too unconventional for my then-whitebread self, but neither the song or its video appealed to me. My closest friend remained a fan, but he was one of the few.
By the time ‘Vibes’ came out, in 1988, Lauper had lost all momentum. The movie, which offered audiences the unusual pop star’s film debut, tanked at the box office and was reviled by critics. Even her theme song for the picture, “Hole in My Heart (All the Way to China)” failed, stalling at 54 on the U.S. charts.
Blaming Lauper’s falling star for ‘Vibes’s box office failure, however, would be inestimably short-sighted: it’s a picture that attempts to be quirky and amusing, but is saddled with a limp script, lame humour and a cast with little or no spark. In short, this picture has no vibrancy and it’s no surprise that it failed.
The concept is simple: some adventurers have found a sacred ground in Ecuador that conceals a mysterious glowing diamond-shaped object. The original contingent never returns, so a colleague decides to hire a psychic (Lauper) to help him find out what happened. She brings along a psychometric peer.
But danger awaits: on their journey to this sacred ground, the trio run into a number of competitors who will stop at nothing to prevent them from getting to their destination. Plus which the psychic and the psychometric are growing attracted to one another, which is causing no small amount of tension.
Oh the fun and hilarity that awaits!
Firstly there’s the main cast: Lauper is okay in this, but she sports a grating Bronx accent and looks pretty trashy; she’s hard to like. And Jeff Goldblum, who plays her romantic interest, spends most of the picture making faces instead of emoting – like he had forgotten how to do that properly. It’s annoying.
The there are the scintillating dialogues, such as:
Nick Deezy: “I brought my own food. I’m taking no chances. This is all dehydrated.”
Sylvia Pickel: “So are you.”
Man, somebody stop me… from punching the script writer in the face! Ouch!
It’s strange because the picture in many ways made me think of a Pierre Richard vehicle, like ‘La chèvre‘, but without the endearing quality of the characters and performers, or subtly amusing situations and dialogues. It’s not even as funny as his worst films, although it’s also not as annoying. It’s just boring.
So very boring. Even the finale, which is usually intended to be the coup de grâce, the moment that audiences will never forget, is anemic, lacking all vigour. And credibility: for instance, people get shot at at close range and only suffer slight flesh wounds. If one can imagine it, the picture actually manages to peter out.
It does have two remarkable qualities, however, and it’s the gorgeous Ecuadorian locales. I thought that the film looked fantastic, to die for; it makes you want to travel there. And then there’s James Horner’s score, filled with light synth touches and flute, which some derided, but which I felt created the right atmosphere.
But, otherwise, ‘Vibes’ is a real loss. If anyone thought that this could be a star-making turn for Cyndi Lauper, they were sadly mistaken: this was no ‘Desperately Seeking Susan‘. For good or bad, it immediately buried her nascent film career, while her music career slowly faded to near obscurity. Few would have predicted that.
Date viewing: June 20, 2015