Shag [1989]

It's not too surprising that Shag flopped on its 1989 release but found a devoted cult following on cable TV and home video. This featherweight comedy looked like a waste of space on the big screen, but it plays very cozily on the tube, where it lends itself to popcorn breaks and pajama parties. (The lousy title must have had something to do with the movie's initial failure, a problem worsened by the film being marketed as Shag: The Movie, a truly dumb idea.) Shag is in the tradition of Spring Break pictures, a thoroughly formulaic stroll through the conventions of the minigenre: beachside romance, a wild party, one tender deflowering, and lots of rock & roll. The time is 1963, as three gal friends trick their soon-to-be-married pal (Phoebe Cates) into one final all-girl fling in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Cates is engaged to a local well-bred stick (Tyrone Power Jr.), but soon she's tempted by a beach boy (Robert Rusler) bound for Yale (mm-hmm). The so-so material is buoyed by lovely Annabeth Gish, as the supposedly pudgy one in the group, and Bridget Fonda, as a prematurely sophisticated sexpot. After a while it's easy enough to relax and enjoy the girls' breezy adventures, which are served up without the soap opera melodrama of the similarly tooled Where the Boys Are. Oh, and Austin Powers notwithstanding, the title refers to the dance, not something else. --Robert Horton

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