Beach Party Review
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Every generation has its teen idols. Kids today have Miley and the Jonas Brothers. Fifty years ago, they had Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, a lovable pair of beach bums who first sang and danced their way into American teen dreams in the 1963 summer surfin’ singalong, Beach Party.

After school is finally out for the summer, Frankie (Avalon) and Dolores (Funicello) are eager to head to their little cabin on the ocean, where their plans include “surfin’ all day…and swingin’ all night.” Anxious about being alone with Frankie (and afraid that he’s only interested in one thing), Dolores invites their whole gang of surfin’ friends—much to Frankie’s dismay.

Frustrated by the distance that’s growing between him and Dolores—but unable to break it off because he loves her—Frankie decides to make her jealous by spending time with Hungarian hottie Ava (Eva Six). Meanwhile, Dolores meets Professor Robert Sutwell (Bob Cummings), a famous anthropologist who’s writing his latest book on the mating rituals of teenage American surf dwellers. Professor Sutwell asks Dolores for help with his research, and as she spends more time with him, Frankie’s plan backfires—because he’s the one who’s feeling jealous.

  
 
Beach Party is the ‘60s equivalent of High School Musical (though it’s not nearly as sweet or innocent). It’s corny and brainless, and it’s full of catchy musical numbers that will lodge themselves in your brain and refuse to go away. The writing is silly and predictable, with unnecessary subplots (like the one involving Harvey Lembeck’s Eric Von Zipper and his anything-but-menacing gang of Rats and Mice) and plenty of groovy surfing scenes to fluff up the runtime.

More importantly, though, watching Beach Party is its own anthropological study. In just an hour and a half, you’ll get a fascinating (and delightfully perplexing) look at ‘60s surf culture—the fashions, the music, and, of course, the language. Unless you happened to be a part of that crowd, you’ll be able to relate to poor Professor Sutwell—and, like him, you’ll feel hopelessly lost in a sea of ‘60s surfer slang (my personal favorite line is when sweet, lovable Dolores looks up as Sutwell and joyfully asks, “Isn’t this a hooting day?”). You’ll even catch a glimpse of ‘60s hipsters at the kids’ favorite hangout, Big Daddy’s, where patrons occasionally take a break from dancing for meditation and beatnik poetry readings.

Though it’s anything but brilliant moviemaking, Beach Party is still pure, cheesy fun. It’s an amusing look at a sweeter, simpler time, when all that really mattered was sun, surf, and getting serious with your high school sweetheart.


Ed. Note: Want to watch this blast from summers past on your computer for free? Check it out on Hulu.com.

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