'Airheads' is airy fun that hits its target

August 05, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Staff Writer

"Airheads" is a likably breezy film that should prove successful with its target audience and even bring more than a few smiles to the face of someone much older.

Three frustrated L.A. rockers, desperate to get air time for their demo tape, inadvertently take over a rock radio station because they happen to be carrying water pistols that resemble Uzis. What kind of guy still plays with water pistols? Guys like Chazz (Brendan Fraser), Rex (Steve Buscemi) and Pip (Adam Sandler), who aren't too bright. These boys are indeed so dumb they call themselves The Lone Rangers, prompting more than one character in the film to ask, "How do you pluralize 'lone'?"

Nevertheless, this threesome -- a heavy metal updating of the Three Stooges -- sets off a hostage crisis that brings L.A.P.D. squad cars, helicopters and S.W.A.T. teams, as well as several ++ million dollars in free publicity in the form of TV news crews. The film works because first-time screenwriter Rich Wilkes has a genuine feeling for how young people talk and what they talk about. Wilkes knows enough about heavy metal to know that Motorhead's Lemmy is a living legend, and "Airheads" is savvy enough to give him a cameo. Director Michael Lehmann knows how to make a teen film -- he made the dark and funny "Heathers," which helped make a star out of Winona Ryder.

pTC It doesn't hurt that "Airheads" has a superb cast that throws itself into this slight comedy as if it were Moliere. The three stars are always amusing: the tall and beautiful Brendan Fraser as the narcissistic lead guitarist, Chazz; "Saturday Night Live's" Adam Sandler as the sweet, almost unbelievably stupid drummer, Pip; and Steve Buscemi (in the best of the three lead performances) as Rex, the wired bassist whose hair-trigger temper ignites the crisis.

Some of the performances in supporting roles make one wish that "Airheads" was Moliere. The most hilarious is that of the great Joe Mantegna as Ian the Shark, the weary, disillusioned shock jock with the smarts to keep the station on the air, broadcasting the entire crisis, including its petty details, to the city. Almost equally good are: Michael McKean (of "This Is Spinal Tap" fame), whose sleazy station manager wants to fire everybody and convert to an easy listening format; Nina Siemaszko as Suzzi, the radio station's resident bimbo; Ernie Hudson, in his umpteenth role, as O'Malley, the police sergeant who tries to keep things calm; and Amy Locaine as Chazz's girlfriend, Kayla, who has a face almost as beautiful as Fraser's.

The funniest turn of all is by "Seinfeld's" Michael Richards, as the station's craven accountant, who hides in the station's air ducts only to suffer one humiliation after another.

"Airheads" is not the teen film genre's "Citizen Kane" or "Potemkin" -- that honor belongs to "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" -- but it comes close.

"Airheads"

Starring Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler and Brendan Fraser

Directed by Michael Lehmann

Released by Twentieth Century Fox

Rated PG-13

** 1/2

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