Totally Awesome (2006) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

As the film begins, Ben Stein comes onscreen as himself and gives a brief spiel about the cultural significance of the youthploitation films of the 1980s. He then announces that he's proud to present, for the very first time, a lost 80s film which has never been seen because of prior legal and financial difficulties. The idea, of course, it to create a context for a spoof of the youth-oriented films of that era.

The central plot is basically a retread of Some Kind of Wonderful, in which the tomboy chick helps her outsider male friend get a date with the most popular girl in school, then ... well, I think you know the rest, even if you have not seen Some Kind of Wonderful. In order to hang on to the most popular girl, our hero has to beat her ex-boyfriend in the decathlon. Since he has no idea how to do those events, he needs a coach - Mr. Yamagushi - who teaches him how to plant the pole with "sweep up, sweep back." I suppose you have recognized that this opened up a running thread of Karate Kid references.

There is a secondary plot involving the younger sister of the male outsider. She loves dance, but finds that her family has moved to a California county where dancing has been made illegal because of some unfortunate incidents in the past. She finds a group of dancers who still cut loose in secret. This allows the film to run some references to Dirty Dancing and Footloose.

The film was produced by the VH1/MTV people, and they know a thing or two about the 1980s, so the intriguing concept might have resulted in an excellent movie, even though the exact same ground had already been covered by "Not Another Teen Movie." Unfortunately, it did not fulfill its promise. Totally Awesome does run around the right bases in the right direction, but that's about all it accomplishes. It is obvious and consistently unfunny, with a weak script, odd casting, some ludicrous overacting, and an appalling inability to recognize when a joke has stopped being funny.

The main plot is handled more for sentiment than for laughs, and is quite convincingly performed by Mikey Day, who chose to ignore the fact that he was in a spoof and play the character as honestly as he could. That is always the right acting decision when the script is good, but he just didn't have good enough good material to work with, so he ended up like fish out of water - delivering a realistic-as-possible performance among a bunch of others who seem to be graduates of the William Shatner Acting Academy. Worst among the violators are Joey Kern as the rich ex-boyfriend of the popular girl, and Dominique Swain as the dance-obsessed little sister. I would say that these two went over the top, but they didn't even seem to be aware that there was a top.

The film's director made a particularly interesting choice in casting the dance instructor. Instead of casting a hunky guy who could handle both the comedy and the dancing, he chose Chris Kattan, who dances about as well as Dr. Steven Hawking, and has about the same body as well. Kattan made all the corny 1980s dance moves and acted as if he were all-that, just as if cock-of-the-walk Patrick Swayze had been doing the part, except without the grace and agility and looks. There were a few moments when Kattan's unearned cool was funny, but the film must have about 20 minutes of Kattan dancing and ... well, it was funny for maybe a minute. Maybe. After that it was just surreal and, more important, boring.

The same point applies to the casting of Brittany Daniel and Joey Kern, actors in their 30s, as the popular rich kids. It's funny the first time you see them dressed up as high school students, and it's appropriate since the youth-oriented shows and films of the 80s and 90s always seemed to feature actors too old for the roles. Jason Priestly, for example, really was in his 30s in his later episodes of Beverly Hills 90201. The problem with gimmicky casting is that it only works for a second. One laugh. After that, the film is stuck with a woman who looks old enough to be the mom of the other kids. (Although a very sexy mom indeed!)

Speaking of boring, Ben Stein's face appears again from time to time in an insert. He's there to explain some of the references. Equally boring, and totally unfunny, was the fact that the screenwriter also chose to make the faux-Myagi character (James Hong, age 77) a gay pedophile with sexual designs on our hero. You haven't lived until you see James Hong sitting with his Kimono open invitingly. But don't feel that the film is gay-bashing, because the dance instructor is a heterosexual pedophile, and the younger sister is only 16! When the dancer is forgiven at the end, the town's mayor makes dancing legal in his honor then, as an afterthought, makes pedophilia legal as well! At last, fun comes back to the town!

You think that was in kinda bad taste? In the deleted scenes, there was sort of a Weird Science spoof where a dad and a little kid switched bodies as the result of a laboratory experiment, and the little kid took advantage of the situation to slip in and fuck the daylights out of his mother!

Now that's wacky fun!

At least they had the good sense to cut that one.

There is one feature on the DVD which I found funny: "Tracy Morgan: 7 minutes of ad libs." The film itself offers a half-hearted passing satire of Soul Man, and Tracy Morgan plays the black guy in charge of teaching our hero to act black. The material in the film is lame, to say the least, but the deleted scenes feature Morgan doing a raunchy ten minute monologue about the inability of white people to understand the black experience. That is, by far, the funniest thing on the disc.



  • Commentary by: actor Tracy Morgan & writer/director Neal Brennan
  • Deleted scenes
  • Bloopers & outtakes hosted by Neal Brennan & Joey Kern
  • Tracy Morgan: 7 minutes of ad libs
  • Joey Kern is Kipp Vanderhoff
  • Kipp Vanderhoff: A Nightmare of Condescending Laughter


The only nudity comes from Zara Taylor, in a tiny role as a Welcome Wagon lady who opens up her blouse to flash some jumbo breasts.

The Critics Vote ...

  • There are no major reviews online


The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 5.3/10. The demographic sub-groups are consistent except that kids under 18 like it MUCH better.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


This film is a D on our scale. I will watch almost any genre spoof. I love them. I even liked "Not Another Teen Movie," which is very similar to this film, but I couldn't wait for Totally Awesome to end.

Return to the Movie House home page