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I give this movie a 5 for one reason: it is so charmingly horrific that it serves as a certain type of entertainment that cannot be found in anything else. I have watched it 4 times already (for the musical numbers alone). Although this was made as an ABC After School Special, there is no moral at the end, and it does not tackle any social issue. It is based off of a young adult novel by the same name, which was written in 1981. It's undeniably outrageous and completely unrealistic! Though, one should note, it's supposed to be a charming comedy - not a typical dramatic after school special. You will never watch something that will make you feel sorry for the actors involved more than this short film. I guarantee you that. For anyone who enjoys the genre of "so bad, it's good"... then this movie is a gift from God. I am so thankful that this was produced and is available on DVD after so many years.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ace Hit's the Big Time was part of the "Schoolbreak Special" lineup,
which was CBS's counter to ABC's After School Specials. This is a
classic case of "so bad it's good," but for slightly different reasons
from most after school specials. This special hits a new height of
absurdity, and does it with a nonsensical plot, cheesy musical numbers
and an utterly unrealistic set of events. Apparently it (like most of
after school specials of the time) was based on a novel, though I doubt
the source material is quite as absurd.
The plot starts off pretty basic and simple. Horace ("Ace") and his family have moved from New Jersey to Manhattan. Horace is about to start his new life at school but is deathly afraid of the gang activities he's heard about. That's fine, a lot of kids can relate to this. But this is exactly when the show goes off into lala land.
Ace's fears turn into hallucinations of gang members hiding in his apartment. This culminates in a fantasy he has where he's being dragged around and beaten by singing, dancing thugs. This is the first musical number and reeks of its 1980's production, and the song has classic lines like "who wants to black his blue eye" and, my personal favorite, "blue blood on falcon ground, you're gonna look like cooked spaghetti!" I mean, it doesn't get any better than that. You simply can't top this lyrical genius. Don't even try.
Since it was all a fantasy, Ace dons an eye patch over his infected eye(?) and heads to school where he is promptly chased by a black car with a man screaming "we want you!" After a short brush with the local Purple Falcon gang (purple falcons? really?), Ace heads to class where he meets Raven. It's made pretty obvious that they've got the hots for each other, and she introduces him to her friends. It turns out that Raven is, SURPRISE, a Purple Falcon. Despite supposedly being the toughest gang in town, they take to Ace immediately and offer him to join. And despite his fear of gangs, Ace accepts their offer and becomes a Purple Falcon.
At this point, most after school specials would be beating their message into your head and preaching against gangs and the likes. But this special actually makes gangs look like FUN! When they're not sitting around looking constipated, the Purple Falcons are hanging out and eating pizza. This is one of the least scary gangs I've seen. They don't do anything. Even one of the gang members admit that they're not much of a gang. Maybe it's me but this special might be giving out the wrong message about gangs. These seem more like a group of friends with eccentric dressing habits moreso than a menace to society.
In a wacky twist to the story, and the inspiration for the special's title, the black car catches up to Ace. The guy works for a movie company, and he says Ace is perfect for the part as a tough guy extra (let's just ignore for a minute that being an extra isn't exactly "hitting the big time") and that he should bring his friends along...because there's nothing that looks tougher than a kid in a cheap eye patch and a black jacket. Eventually, the Piranhas, a rival gang, crash the party...and what do rival gangs do when they clash? Why, sling silly insults at each other! To top the random nature of the movie deal, which seems to have no overbearing effect on the plot at all, a sort of love story is tossed in. Ace and Raven have already been giving each other longing looks through the entire special, but while watching a movie scene (the second musical number), they constantly make googly eyes at one another and Ace even fantasizes that he's dancing with Raven in place of the two actors.
After their first week of shooting, the Purple Falcons are terrorized once against by the Piranhas. Ace and friends do what they do best to defend their reputation and street cred.....they run. During the escape they all somehow manage to lose Raven, who is kidnapped by the Piranhas. The other gang members are too scared to do anything about it so Ace volunteers to save her.
In what is probably the most ridiculous part of the plot, Ace goes to the Piranha's home turf offering...a cake with "Make Peace not War" scribbled on it in exchange for Raven. And they accept it! He even manages to scare them into doing his bidding. Although it's implied but not actually seen, the two gangs merge due to Ace's gesture, which would likely end any gang warfare since 1. there's only one gang in the area now and 2. they didn't really do anything in the first place.
The special then ends with one more musical number. The ridiculous, random and cheesy nature of this final musical number feels like a surprisingly appropriate conclusion to Ace Hit's the Big Time, and a summation of the entire production. There's no overlying message, though you may be able to pick one up from the song since Ace sings about solving everything by "being himself"...which sort of ignores the fact that he joined a gang and was cast for a movie for looking like a thug. And that he kept all of this hidden from his parents.
Quite frankly this special needs to be seen to be believed.
I love After School Specials. Now that they are on DVD I get to re-live
the ones I loved and get to see the one's I missed. One of the ones I
missed the first time around was ACE HITS THE BIG TIME, which is based
on a popular and celebrated young adult book from the '80s.
This movie stars the oldest son from MR BELVEDERE, Rob Stone (and, no, I am here to tell you once and for all Rob is NOT Marilyn Manson!) as a kid starting out in a his new urban high school that is rumored to be run by thugs and gangs.
On Day One he meets a cute girl in class named Raven and agrees to have lunch with her (Even though he's already thrown away the apple and bagel Mommy packed for him in a plastic bag). She goes to introduce him to her friends and, lo and behold, her friends are gang members from the gang The Purple Falcons. Tough name, right? Nope! Because of pink eye (I think) Ace is wearing a patch over his eye. He's wearing a black and gold dragon themed jacket, jeans and sneakers so OF COURSE they assume he was a thug at his old school and ask him to join their gang because they're afraid if they don't make friends with him he'd be a tough enemy. We later find out these toughs aren't as "tough" as they'd like people to believe and don't really hot wire cars or steal old ladies purses.
Since Ace started school he's noticed a black limo following him around. It ends up there is a movie being shot nearby and they want real gang members as background characters. The lady behind making this movie gushes over Ace in such a way that I was beginning to suspect she wanted to sleep with him. He, along with his fellow FALCONS, go to work on the movie set every day after school for $25 a day. The movie is sort of a modern day WEST SIDE STORY and so we are forced (more than once) to watch teens dressed in cute gang glad rags dance like they are auditioning for SOLID GOLD.
A fellow gang finds out about the movie and gets miffed that THEY weren't asked to be in it. Now they wanna get even with the Falcons.
Of course, none of this is realistic from the get go. Getting dressed like a gang member ...the guy was just asking to get knifed on his first day of school. But the biggest disbelief of all was him getting asked...the first time he dresses like this...to be in a movie. The way the lady director gushes you'd think he was starring in the thing...with no previous experience. Then the woman says "You and your friends" without ever seeing his friends. Sight unseen they are welcome to star in this movie too! And wouldn't parents somewhere have had to sign consent forms???? Perhaps the sillyest dumb plot point of all is the finale where Ace and Company dance and sing and do an Early MTV style video singing about how far they've come.
Have we learned anything from watching this pap? And if so: WHAT???
This movie really isn't about anything. The characters and situations
are so outrageous and unbelievable that its a surprise that this was
ever produced. I guess the movie is supposed to be about gangs, but the
gangs in this movie aren't like any gangs in the real world. WEST SIDE
STORY used gang themes in a stylized, musical way, but at least WEST
SIDE STORY dealt with social issues. ACE HITS THE BIG TIME wants to be
WEST SIDE STORY, but doesn't have the guts to be about anything
socially relevant nor does it have the talent involved to write good
songs or choreograph good dance numbers.
The question is did this movie Afterschool Special appeal to kids in the 1980s? Maybe kids under the age of 9 years old would have gotten some entertainment out of it. But did they learn anything about gangs? Probably not.
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