Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986)

Directed by David Wechter
Starring Debra Blee, Barbara Horan, Galyn Gong, Ami Julius
Rated R
USA

"I broke up with a guy once because he didn't use sunblock."

Man, we were such suckers in the 80's. You've got to remember, as we take this journey through the decades together, just how difficult it was to get your hands on salient material twenty years ago. Getting your hands on actual pornography was at least as difficult as scoring weed, and twice as embarrassing. If you wanted to see naked girls - and you did, quite badly - your safest bet was R rated teen sex comedies, just like this one. The Malibu Bikini Shop would not last a week on the new release shelf of Blockbuster (or the most-seeded/downloaded list on Pirate Bay or wherever, to be more realistic), were it released today, but not only was it a hot rental for ages in the 80's, it also played on basic cable (with the tits scissored out, of course) and, if you were lucky, on late night premium cable, well into the 1990's. Why? Well, it certainly isn't for the laughs, because there aren't any, and it isn't for the story, which is ridiculous, and it isn't for the acting, which is either overwrought or negligible. It's because it's got girls in -and sometimes out - of bikinis, for it's entire duration. And in 1986, 99 minutes of perky boobs and butts in teeny bikinis was VHS gold.

Our epic opens with a bunch of idiots having the most awesome time ever trying on bathing suits. The girls in this shop are so psyched they actually dance while ringing shit up. Even the application of lipgloss is celebrated with boob-bouncing dances.

Some kid in a half-shirt and fruity shirts rolls into the joint on his oversized skateboard and rips down the curtain to the changing room, affording us our first tit-flashes at the very generous two-minute mark. And that's pretty much how life goes down at Ida's Bikini Shop. In Malibu, if the title is to be believed.

Cut to: Graduation day in some other, less awesome locale. Uptight Alan (Michael David Wright - even the actor's name is stiff!) is the only one in his group of pals that won't chug champagne while they wait for their diplomas, because he's too busy taking notes of the dean's droning speech. Later on, during his graduation party, we meet Alan's whiny, upper-crusty fiancé, Jane (the awesome double-D B-goddess Debra Blee, The Beach Girls, Savage Streets, Hamburger the Motion Picture), and her rich parents.

Jane's father has already hired Alan to work at his firm - whatever the fuck they do - and Jane has the rest of his life planned out, as well. But things take a turn for the weird when a dude shows up mid-party and hands Alan a telegram. Seems his aunt Ida drowned (while partying in the first scene), and he is requested to go to Malibu for the reading of the will. And so he goes.

Alan jets to west coast where he meets up dead aunt Ida's Snagglepuss-esque lawyer, Richard J Remington (the amazing Frank Nelson, 50's sitcom star and voice of innumerable Hanna Barbara cartoons. RIP) who informs that he now owns 51% of Ida's estate - a giant house and a tiny bikini shop on the beach. And who owns the other 49%? Why, Alan's good-for-nothing slacker brother Todd (Bruce Greenwood), of course. In fact, Todd's in the house, sitting in a lawn chair and swilling beer. The two brothers catch up: Todd had a solar-powered hot dog stand scheme brewing in Seattle, but then it rained for six weeks straight, and his dreams were dashed. Alan, on the other hand, is doing terrific. Since he's in a charitable mood, he asks his ne'er do well brother to be his best man at his wedding. Todd accepts the offer/challenge. They shake on it and head to the beach.

Remington shows them the bikini shop, which is naturally bustling with hot 80's chicks buying skimpy swimsuits.
"Mr. R, I think I've found my calling," announces Todd.
"Oh really?" Says Renmington. "And I had you figured for a brain surgeon."
Remington introduces the fellas to their scantily-clad employees: Cindy (Galyn Gorg), Cathy (Ami Julius, Hot Dog the Movie), and dramatic brunette beauty Ronnie (Barbara Horan).

Ronnie and Alan clearly have an instant connection. Todd, on the other hand, figures he's a shoo-in with both Cindy and Cathy. Or both. Anyway, he causes a ruckus which results in a display full of suntan lotion crashing down on Alan's head. Haha!

Todd, naturally, wants them to move into Ida's place and run the shop together. Alan, being the sober, business-minded type, wants to sell everything and split the cash. Since he has 51% of the controlling interest, he can pretty much do what he wants.

Undaunted, Todd takes over as manager at the store, instituting new innovations like encouraging his employees to actually wear bikinis while they work and installing a two-way mirror in the changing rooms to, erm, cut down on theft. His plan reaps benefits immediately, when a giant-breasted blonde comes in to try on a few suits, but then backfires moments later when an overweight woman tries to squeeze into a teeny bikini. Haha, gross!

Alan does his best to make the shop appear both presentable and profitable and lines up a potential buyer. She likes what she sees, but Alan is sabotaged when a loudmouth delivery man shows up with a package and demands COD, since Ida's hasn't had credit for years. So, it looks like they might be there awhile. Todd asks Cindy, Cathy, and Ronnie to move in to Ida's beach house with them - I mean, why not? - and they happily accept.

The first night, while Jane yaps away on the phone about wedding plans, Alan dreamily watches Ronnie outside, soaking in the hot tub. He fantasizes about making foggy 80's hot tub love to her, but is brought back to Earth by his fiance's shrill yammering. So that's going on.

Alan lines up another potential buyer - an older couple, looking for a quiet, low-key business to operate - but his, of course, thwarted by Todd, who sets up a "Sexiest Tan" contest in the front of the store that very day. Todd interviews the girls and they dance to awful 80's synth-pop.
It's going pretty good until one of the contestants, Margie (Jeana Loring), yanks her top off, and the cops show up to shut the contest down.

No probs, dude! Todd invites everybody to their house to party! It's a pretty happening soiree, too. Todd invites everybody into Ida's old bedroom, which has a revolving bed and a trapeze on the ceiling. He attempts to turn on the Sumo Wrestling Championship, but accidentally turns on one of his dead aunt's sex tapes instead. So they watch that. Alan, meanwhile, gets loaded on Budweiser and starts having fun, for once.

He even manages to get into the hot tub with Ronnie. For real, this time. The outcome, unfortunately, is the same. Jane shows up (also for real), demanding to know what's going on. Alan hems and haws and she drags him to a hotel for the night. Over dinner, he tells her he wants them to get married and then move to the beach house and run the store together, but she won't hear of it.

That night they make so-so 80's offscreen love, which Jane figures will get Alan back on board with her plans. After whining about whining to go sightseeing, Jane gets up to badger Alan further, and we finally get a halfway decent gander at Blee's magnificently bountiful rack. It's contained in a flimsy nightgown, but still, anyone who's seen The Beach Girls knows how awe-inspiring those things are.

Back at the shop, Alan and Todd argue about selling the shop. It's obvious that Alan wants to keep it, but he's under Jane's thumb. Some hippie fucker in a dashiki named Mr Greene (Jon Rashad Kamal) shows up, ready to buy the place on the spot. Todd and Ronnie and Cathy and Cindy all look wanly at Alan, hoping he'll refuse. Jane steps defiantly in front of them and stares her fiancé down.

So, Alan sells it. Mr Greene tells him he's going to turn it into a meditation center, which boils Alan's blood for some reason, so he demands it back. Greene says he'll sell it back for $6,000. Fucker.

So, Alan sends Jane packing. Personally, I would have put up with her just to see her naked on a semi-regular basis, but Alan's way into Ronnie now. So, he just has to figure out how to drum up six grand in two weeks to save the shop and live happily ever after. Todd comes up with the idea to cheaply produce a bikini that everybody will want, and then sell a zillion of them, and then they can all live happily ever after. But who will design this item? Well, it turns out that Ronnie goes to design school! Awesome!

For some nonsensical reason, Todd buys a giant box of green hospital scrubs and tells Ronnie she has to use them for the bikinis, because that's all that they can afford. She knocks it around in her head for awhile, and then comes up with a series of Rambo-esque bikinis. Cathy and Cindy model 'em. They look alright. Unfortunately, it turns into a while pointless music video that sorta looks like Motley Crue's Looks that Kill, only with a sub-Pointer Sisters dance track instead. So, that takes a while.

And then Ronnie and Alan make tender 80's love in the hot tub, which is filled with milky water, for some reason. That takes a while as well, and all we get is some smooshed side-boob for our efforts. Meanwhile, Jane and her dad jet back to Malibu to fuck things up for Alan.
"I don't even want to marry him anymore," she tells her dad. "I just want to ruin his life." And then she chomps down on a hot dog.

So, then there's an 80's fixin' stuff up montage, as the gang gets ready to sell their Rambo-kinis. So, that takes a while. And then they have a big show on the beach, with smoke and dancing and machine guns and kicking, to show off their goods and drum up sales. That also takes a while.

Todd got some help from the local teenage riffraff to put everything together, so lets them sit in front of the two-way mirror and gawk at the girls changing as payback. Score!

Sales are brisk, but Jane and dad show up at the last minute with a cop to queer the deal. Jane gets her dressed ripped off by one of the local hoodlums, so that's cool.

The cop chases after the kid, thwarting Jane's sabotage attempt, and so the shop is once again Alan's. Which, you would hope, would mark the end of the movie. Sadly, it does not. There's one final gag involving a bikini race to go before we get to the merciful release of the end-credits roll. I will not give it away, but I will say this: if you actually make it that far, it is a pretty awesome reward for your efforts.

At 99 minutes, Malibu Bikini Shop is mercilessly long. The final third of the film is padded with so much rock-video fluff that it becomes literally painful to watch. It's too bad, because with a little editing, this could have been a top-notch 80's teen-flick, a Beach Party throwback with bonus boobs. It is still worth a look for it's High 80's fashions and the generous dollops of boobs, but by all means, keep your thumb on the fast-forward button for the last 40 minutes.


This was the second-to-last film Debra Blee made. She followed it up a year later with the now-scarce Beach Fever (starring Kato Kaelin!) and then poof! She was gone. Miss Blee and her double-Ds are sorely missed. Director David Wechter parlayed his experience here filming half-naked gyrating girls into a long and lucrative career shooting the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders for various projects. Hey man, somebody's gotta do it.

Availability: The Malibu Bikini Shop is available on VHS.

- Ken McIntyre

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