Beanstalk (1994)

beanstalk_8Starring J.D. Daniels, Amy Stoch, Margot Kidder, Patrick Renna, Richard Moll, Richard Paul, Stuart Pankin, Cathy McAuley, Cindy Sorenson, David Naughton, Dominique Adler

Directed by Michael Davis

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


As you might have figured out by the title, Beanstalk is Moonbeam’s attempt at adapting the classic fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. The story is one that just about everyone is familiar with, but Beanstalk does a great job of keeping the basics and updating the story in a lot of fun and entertaining ways. Beanstalk does away with the antiquated setup of Jack trading his cow for a handful of magic beans, replacing it with a cross between Back to the Future‘s Doc Brown and the mega-hit from the year before: Jurassic Park. A cryptozoologist (played with reckless glee by Margot Kidder!) runs a dig site somewhere in the desert, and she unearths a bunch of huge beans and a giant skull. This might be the site of Jack’s original beanstalk, but other minor details later in the film suggest that Jack’s tale was merely one of a few beanstalk scalings over the years.

Anyway, Jack (J.D. Daniels) is helping his mother (Missy from Bill & Ted, Amy Stoch!) pay the overdue rent payment by taking a load of antiques to sell. A bully (Patrick Renna) starts screwing with his box of treasures, throwing one into the street. The money these antiques will bring is very important to Jack and his mother, so he runs out into the street to catch the porcelain dog before it smashes on the asphalt. He catches it, but the cryptozoologist happens to be driving by and almost hits him with her motor home. A crate full of the giant beans flies off in the ruckus, and because Jack is a scheming whiz kid always looking for his next big idea, he decides to take the crate home in hopes that it contains something valuable or useful.

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Mini-Review: The Princess Academy (1987)

Starring Eva Gabor, Lu Leonard, Richard Paul, Carole Davis, Lar Park-Lincoln, Bader Howar, Barbara Rousek, Britt Helfer, Nathalie Tarkowski, Shelley Pielou, Yolande Palfrey

Directed by Bruce A. Block

Expectations: Low. I don’t think this one’s for me.


The Princess Academy is one of those carefree ’80s sex comedies with a twist: it’s set in a European castle (par for the course on a Charles Band produced film) and there’s not a single flash of nudity. This keeps the film light-hearted and somewhat innocent, even when the girls are lacing tampons with itching powder or tricking the stuck-up rich girl into eating horse shit. Despite this innocence the humor is deliberately low brow, creating a unique atmosphere for the characters to play within. It didn’t succeed in holding my interest throughout, but it’s a lot better than I expected it to be.

The structure of the film is non-traditional, taking a more episodic/slice-of-life style over a traditional plot. There is something of a through line that runs through all the scenes, but it’s nothing more than “Poor girl is enrolled in a school for rich girls and fish-out-of-water hilarity ensues.” But even that description is more focused than the movie is. None of the characters stand out as a lead and many of the girls were indistinguishable from each other to me. This led to a lot of questioning moments in my head of who exactly everyone was and what they were doing, and coupled with the structure of the film I was instantly reminded of this year’s pretentious darling The Tree of Life. Perhaps there is more meaning hidden in the film’s multiple ringings of the hallway orgasm horn than I had previously thought. If only there were some barely audible whispers to clue me into this film’s depth.

For a comedy, The Princess Academy just doesn’t have enough laughs to keep it entertaining for the full 85 minutes. The best scene in the film — and one of the most coherent — is when many of the girls try to impart their personal skills on how to fake orgasms on the prudish virgin girl. Each girl has a funny, distinct method which is fun all by itself, but when the virgin girl attempts to replicate the movements and the moans, it’s comedy gold. If only the rest of the film was on par with this scene.

For most people this will be an easy pass, but hardcore fans of the ’80s sex comedy might want to track it down for completion’s sake. It does have some genuine laughs (and some WTF ones as well) and it’s competently shot and edited for those that value things like that.

Next week, I’m gonna check out another Full Moon film from 1999 (hoping that they aren’t all bad), David DeCoteau’s Totem featuring the totem characters from Puppet Master 4 & 5!

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