Starstruck (1982) – By Jonathon Pernisek

Starstruck ended up being a pleasant surprise in a time when it seemed like every film was destined to make my eyes itch. Granted, I seek out itchy cinema for a non-paid living, but every now and then it’s nice to have my expectations bucked. This is an oddball feature, to be sure, containing an extreme amount of style to make up for its tried-and-true story. Would I call this a diamond in the rough? Indeed I would, especially if you like your movies a little schizophrenic in nature.

My original motivation for buying my copy of Starstruck was twofold: First, the video came in one of those extremely old school boxes, the kind made out of industrial white plastic one could also use as a paper weight or bug crusher. Second, it screamed the 1980s, and anyone who knows me will agree I cannot pass up the chance to see this decade exemplified on some sort of screen. The cover sported lead actress Jo Kennedy sporting a frizzy red ‘do, a day-glow tutu and an expression reminiscent of a coke addict, so you can see while I shelled out a few bucks to watch her film.

Mind you, the movie does not take place in America during the ‘80s, but rather Australia, the land of kangaroos and shrimp prepared on the barby. And let me tell you right now: the Aussies knew how to rock the ‘80s a lot better than the Yanks. They took this stuff seriously, including the fashion and music. One of the first scenes takes place in a club straight out of a Divo acid trip, with strips of neon lighting and police sirens serving as decoration while a wide array of Aussies dance in complete herky-jerk unison. Better still; the band playing was led by Kennedy…in a giant red kangaroo suit. Oh yeah, it doesn’t get any better than this people.

As I mentioned before, the story is nothing you haven’t been told before in a dozen other movies. Kennedy plays a free-spirited girl named Jackie who dreams of becoming a famous singer. Her younger cousin, a standard hornball teen named Angus, acts as her manager, and together they get into all kinds of wacky scrapes while trying to become famous. Other clich&eactute;s appear in the form of a conservative mother who sternly disapproves of a career in music, the zany nana who wants to be hip, and a financial crisis that can only be solved by winning a battle-of-the-bands contest.

What makes Starstruck stand out from such recent Underdog Performer flicks as Crossroads or Honey are its unconventional elements. A good example is the relationship between Angus and Jackie. Being cousins, they spare us from having to predict any possible romantic subplot, but I got the distinct impression Angus really did want to date his relative. Odd, yes, but at least it was different.

Also, and this really floored me, I had no idea the movie was going to be a musical. A freaking musical! All of the music is pure cotton candy teeth rotting ‘80s pop too, with such track titles as “The Monkey in Me” and “Surfside Tango,” and boy howdy is this stuff catchy. To this day I find myself humming such classic lyrics as “It’s the monkey in me that made me wanna chew it,” and I make this statement with no sarcasm included. I know, I’m a complete dork, but people breaking into song melts my cold, embittered heart like nothing else. Stop giggling. The movie does have a few problems, the main one being its knack for losing track of certain plot elements. You watch this movie about an aspiring singer, her highs and lows, the lessons she learns, and then suddenly she’s in love with one of her band members. I honestly had no idea who this character was or where he even came from, so when Jackie started belting a rock ballad to the big lug it was a might confusing. There’s also a conflict concerning Jackie’s family needing money to save their pub, but this was pretty muddled as well. Frankly, I don’t think anyone cared one way or the other, as the music is really the only reason to watch this movie.

Thus has my palette been nicely cleansed. What once was steeped in seagull droppings, badly recorded KISS tunes and Chuck Norris’ body hair has been lifted to a higher, better plane. The world of wonderfully grody Aussie fashion and music is my world now, and I have Starstruck to thank for this achievement.