Since the internet found out about Adam West’s passing we’ve been mourning the loss of the One True Batman. Taking a look at my VHS collection I believe the only movie of his I have on tape is this little oddity from the late 80s, Doin’ Time On Planet Earth. Although this is a Cannon film, replete with all the dubious quality that logo stands for, West’s greatest quality is on display here: he always enthusiastically played every part he took on, the campier the better. So even though Doin’ Time is deservedly forgotten, it still stands as a fitting tribute to West’s career because of the way he throws himself into his role of a goofy, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing alien.
West plays the second lead, but is the most memorable thing about this movie. The main character is a young man named Ryan who lives in the Prune Capital of the World, where his father owns a Holiday Inn with a revolving restaurant that looks like a flying saucer because it is. Although said dad is a tacky but well-meaning fellow who could have played Weird Al’s uncle in UHF, Ryan’s siblings are snobby: a typical Hollywood version of a high school cheerleader, and an Ivy League grad who’s about to marry the daughter of a failed Presidential candidate (50s TV hottie Hugh O’Brian).
Ryan is the black sheep of the family, a nerd who has only one friend in the universe of this film, but honestly the kind of kid I would have wanted to be friends with in 1988. He raises exotic plants and sleeps in a hammock while listening to a jukebox filled with classic TV theme songs, so what’s not to like? Obviously we’re supposed to be rooting for this kid as he suffers minor humiliations from being the family weirdo, so of course everyone else is an asshole for being mean to him. He’s the kind of guy you can tell is going to do well in college once he gets out of his small town, except he may not make it to college because in his attempt to find a date to his brother’s wedding, he fills out a computer dating profile which is secretly a means for West’s wackadoo character and his equally kooky wife to find other aliens. They think Ryan is their leader, to be exact, and that the restaurant will take them to their home planet. Will Ryan get a date for the wedding, get the resident hot chick free spirit lounge singer to notice him, and remember where the home planet is, all by the time the blue moon rises on Saturday’s nuptials, and do we care?
No. We don’t care. I’ll admit I was invested in seeing What Ryan Was Going to Do With His Life because I’m a sucker for a nerd-comes-of-age film from the 80s, but the film ended abruptly with him running away from West who immediately gives up on chasing him. It’s like they ran out of money before they finished writing the story and just filmed what they had and went home. That’s just good screenwriting, as my husband always says about films that don’t make no sense. I didn’t laugh once at this movie, and I’m a doofus who snort laughs at Progressive insurance commercials on cable TV so if you can’t make me laugh that’s bad.
I do have to admit that Adam West is all California alien wonder and bad dancing, which is fun, and I’ve always had a crush on him, so he’s the only reason I re-watched this tonight. He gives every line the breathless gravitas he gave his performance in all those Family Guy episodes, straight out of the William Shatner school of theater arts. The lead actor (Nicholas Strouse) only had three acting roles, but since giving up on acting has moved on to being a therapist, author, and proponent of EMDR therapy, if my internet search is correct. See what bad movies can do? God bless, Mr. West, and Godspeed. I hope Cesar Romero is in heaven too so you have an antagonist to keep you from getting bored.
My VHS copies of Doin’ Time (not sure how I ended up with two) have a little blurb on the front of the box proclaiming that Adam West of Batman fame is in this, so that was intended to be the selling point from the get go. Golan and Globus knew they had a bad movie on their hands because either they did it on purpose or did not give a shit! The late 80s were full of low budget comedies, overacted and with an undercurrent of menace brought on by the Reaganomics/Cold War/ozone vaporizing/neon vomit time period. 1988 alone also boasted the uncomfortable comedies Pass The Ammo, Dead Heat, Brain Damage, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, My Best Friend Is A Vampire, and Tapeheads. The tone is the same here, but you would do better with almost any one of those I listed. However, if you are an Adam West completist, you can find Doin’ Time on YouTube.
P.S. I enjoy collecting screenshots of Meaningful Movie Marquees that appear in films, when the movie listed is a joke that has something to do with the film I am watching. Here it’s A Raisin In The Sun that shows up on the movie sign, obviously because the town Ryan lives in is the prune capital.
P.P.S. Am I the only one who misses the Holiday Inn signs from this time period, and laments that I wasn’t old enough to drink in a shitty Holiday Inn bar while a tone deaf singer howled cover songs? Man, I used to love those signs.