12/15/06

403 City Limits

(1985, SciFi-Postapocalyptic/Bikers/Teen, color)

You got ideas, Lee?

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Postapocalyptic biker kids battle an evil corporation that wants to enslave them.

Summary:

Joel has our moral well-being (and the network censors) in mind.“Fifteen years from now” (which, according to the original video tagline, is 2003) a nameless, Los Angeles-ish city is divided evenly between two rival motorcycle gangs. They’re all young people, since the adults were killed off by a grownups-only plague, which I assume was meant to occur “somewhat less than fifteen years from now.”

Youth biker Lee brings the remnants of his gang home to his parental figure, Albert (James Earl Jones). Albert welcomes them home with a warning shot before allowing them inside. He narrates the backstory for us in a voice that almost dips below the range of human hearing

Albert raised Lee after the grownups-only plague, and then sent him off to find adventure with a souped-up dirt bike and a sheep-skull helmet. Lee spends most of the opening credits in a water tower, making love to a nubile young lady he found along the way. Eventually he arrives at the city to find that mythical band of motorcycle heroes, the Clippers. He accidentally follows a convoy of trucks into the warehouse of an evil corporation, lifting his sheep skull to smile shyly at the winsome Dr. Wickings (Kim Cattrall) before stunt riding out again.

When he finally finds the Clippers (who dress like 80s glam-rock groupies) they are less than thrilled to see him. Apparently he killed a biker in the rival gang (who dress like 19th century fops) during a confusingly edited sequence that happened on his way into town. Still, Lee’s a loveable lug, so Yogi (Rae Dawn Chong) and a guy named Whitey convince the Clipper leader Mick to set up a “trial by combat” with the rival gang, in accordance with the inviolable comic-book laws that they live by.

The rival gang (whose name escapes me—the Lakers, maybe?) agrees and sets up the motorcycle duel in the ruins of an old natural history museum. Representatives of the evil corporation show up and ask them to help them restore essential services, such as electricity and medicine, to the city. Mick refuses, over the objection of the foppish rival gang leader, and the duel goes on as scheduled. Lee gets unseated almost immediately, but wins by jump kicking his rival from her bike. The gangs welcome Lee as a full member of the Clippers.


Afterwards, Clipper spy Whitey climbs into the evil corporation warehouse and overhears the evil corporation enforcer tell the reluctant rival biker leader that they’re going to crush the Clippers with guns, which are outlawed by comic book law. He catches Whitey and shoots him with an illicit pistol. Dr. Wickings sees the execution and complains to the corporate leader, Carver (Robby Benson). He blows her off with a vague train metaphor, so she complains by email to the evil home office. They put her off too, so she runs away to warn the Clippers.

Meanwhile, some confusing editing has informed the Clippers of Whitey’s death, so they hold a rockin’ funeral. A bereaved Mick tenderly asks Lee if he “got ideas.” The enforcer’s goons show up and gun them down. The corporation captures the surviving Clippers and forces them into slavery. The rival gang leader helps the wounded Mick escape the city with Lee, Dr. Wickings, Yogi, and several other guys. They go out of town, back to Albert’s place, where we end up at the beginning of the movie.

They mourn their losses with gratuitous sex and the manufacture of bulletproof motorcycles. Lee proclaims that he does, indeed, “got ideas,” and they head back to town to put those ideas into action. He breaks into a prison facility and takes a gunshot to his chainmailed chest to convince the captured Clippers that they need not live in slavery. They rush the guards and take back their bikes. Joining up with the rival gang, they attack the main corporation compound, taking down jumpsuited evil guys left and right. It’s an even fight until Albert shows up with a bunch of model airplanes packed with explosives.

They all head inside to confront Carver, who delivers a stock villain speech to the effect of “if you kill me, another will come” before the rival gang leader crushes him against the wall with his desk. Kim Cattrall emails the evil home office to stay out of their town, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Introduction:

He cries, you know.Tom and Crow trick Joel into saying “ping-pong balls.” Ping-pong balls rain down on his head, Captain Kangaroo-style. Quoth Crow, “Those have been up there for months.”

Host Segment One:

Tom’s head is full of ping-pong balls, including Crow’s eyeballs. Down in Deep 13, Frank sings, “I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing,” until Dr. Forrester interrupts him with a large hammer. Joel has invented various meat-based dolls, including Mr. Meat-and-Potato-Head and Sir Beef Wellington. Dr. Forrester has invented pop star Tupperware, for keeping aging pop stars fresh. He demonstrates its effectiveness with depressed pop singer Morrissey, who’s very keen on reminding everyone how much he cries.

Host Segment Two:

Crow sings a little song about how much he loves Kim Cattrall. “I like your smell / You’re really swell.” Joel, Tom, and Gypsy help him perform a short scene from the movie Mannequin.

Host Segment Three:

Joel and the ‘Bots think of a new superhero group called The Fantastic 85. Members include Manman (all the powers of an ordinary man), Lumberman (controls the supply of lumber to different parts of the country), Papercutman, The Pheasant Plucker, and The Pheasant Plucker’s Son.

Host Segment Four:

Joel and the ‘Bots change their idea to The Fantastic 185 so that they can keep the list going with such new heroes as Perfect Paul and his Magnetic Spleen.

Host Segment Five:

Joel and the ‘Bots play the City Limits Trivia Game. Tom and Crow can’t even answer the question, “In the movie City Limits, what was the name of the movie?” They read some letters. Down in Deep 13, Morrissey whines and sniffs Dr. Forrester’s shoulder. Quoth he, “Did I mention that I cried?”

Stinger:

The evil corporate enforcer screams like a little girl.

Thoughts:

Don't these kids ever ride during daylight?While there’s probably no way to make a good movie about the 80s glam-rock bikers of the postapocalyptic future, it should have been fairly easy to at least make it entertaining. It’s so close. If the editing were a little clearer, or the script a little more cohesive it would have been a lot of fun to watch. As it was, I was constantly distracted by such missing elements as Lee’s initial adventure with the rival biker, and the unintelligible discovery of Whitey’s body. Also, as far as I can tell, Lee and Dr. Wickings exchanged smiles at the beginning of the film and then never spoke to each other again until the scene where she jumps into bed with him. Being able to tell what was going on and why wouldn’t have made it a cinematic masterpiece, but it would have made it the kind of film you wouldn’t flip away from on late-night cable.

Also, where do postapocalyptic biker kids get fuel for their bikes? Did the adults-only plague somehow miss the entire oil industry?

Mike Nelson as Morrissey highlights the host segments. He whines and cries convincingly as a washed-up pop star. Listing weird superheroes is always a good idea, and I liked the homage to Captain Kangaroo. Crow does a credible job as Kim Cattrall’s obsessed stalker/fan, but he can’t take that role to the same manic depths as Tom Servo and his various obsessions.

Joel and the ‘Bots do their best to mock a mostly unfollowable film during the movie segments. They start off the opening credits with Joel opening an umbrella in the theatre to strategically block a naked young woman’s naughty bits from view. Tom has a couple of songs, including “Pull my finger,” set to the music of “Goldfinger,” and “Born to Be Wild” at a very slow tempo, sung during the biker funeral march. Crow declares the prison for the trendily dressed Clippers to be “Stalag 90210.” He also belts out “This is CNN,” whenever James Earl Jones is on screen. This is only mildly amusing until the end, when the fur-clad Jones is flying explosive model airplanes around with a big goofy grin on his face, inspiring Crow’s comment, “This is F.U.N.” Good host segments and some good comments make this episode worth watching, but much of the movie is incomprehensible and difficult to watch.