A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Zapped! is a 1982 teen sex comedy in which Scott Baio plays a nerdy science whiz who creates a potion that gives him telekinetic powers. It almost goes without saying that Baio's character uses his new powers to tear off the tops of attractive teen girls, exposing (temporarily) their breasts, but there's also implied sex between a teen boy and an older high school administrative assistant who unbuttons her blouse and makes sexual advances, as well as frequent allusions and euphemisms for sex from both adult authority figures and teens. Both lead male characters have sex with their love (or lust) interests; the character played by Willie Aames keeps a cabinet packed with condoms in his photo studio, and surreptitiously takes a nude photograph of the girl he has seduced. During a dinner date, a teacher goes under the table and performs oral sex (not shown but strongly implied) on the principal. Teens and adults drink to excess. The lead character grows marijuana in a hidden part of the science lab -- when he is nearly caught by the principal he burns it in the school incinerator, where the baseball coach gets high from the smoke and has an extended hallucinogenic vision. Occasional profanity -- "s--t," "crap," "ass."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In ZAPPED!, Barney Springboro (Scott Baio) is a bespectacled science nerd who is too busy experimenting with lab rats to have a social life. On the other hand, his best friend Peyton (Willie Aames) uses his photography savvy and innate confidence to meet and seduce the girls (and women) of Ralph Waldo Emerson High School. While they both lust after the cheerleader Jane (Heather Thomas), it is Bernadette, who is also bespectacled and serves as class president, who seems to be interested in dating Barney. Their lives turn topsy-turvy when Barney realizes that a concoction he has developed to make marijuana grow faster and stronger gives him telekinetic powers. Naturally, Barney uses this power to rip off the tops of curvaceous classmates, but he also uses it to help his hapless baseball team win a game, stand up to bullies, and help Peyton win a drinking contest against Jane's frat-boy college boyfriend. But when Peyton wants Barney to help him win at roulette instead of going out with his now-girlfriend Bernadette, Barney must learn to keep his priorities straight.
Is it any good?
At a time when most teen comedies were filled with underage drinking and drug use, gratuitous sex, and objectified women, this one offers a tiny bit more. There is some creativity at work in the nods to Star Trek, Taxi Driver, and Carrie, and in the budding relationship that develops between the awkward nerds Barney and Bernadette, there is an attempt to create a female character that can be attractive and yet more than just a body to be ogled at by the guys. The kitschy aspects alone -- the power-pop soundtrack, the goofiness of the premise, the haircuts -- give the movie entertainment value. But when the dated attitudes of the times rear their ugly heads, some of that charm fades.
Moments in which Barney's best friend Peyton surreptitiously takes a nude photograph of the girl he has seduced in his photo studio, or has implied sex with an adult high school administrative assistant on her desk, are downright creepy, wrong, and not funny viewed the perspective of today. The naked breasts, binge drinking, and extended psychedelic drug interludes feel forced in in order to "give the teen boys what they want" in a bankable (especially then) movie genre. Still, for parents who grew up in the early 1980s, Zapped! offers both nostalgic entertainment and an opportunity for families to talk about what has changed (or perhaps not changed enough) about attitudes toward sex and dating.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about teen movies. How does Zapped! address topics like underage drinking, drug use, bullying, out-of-touch parents?
How have teen comedies changed since the time when this movie came out in 1982?
How are teen girls and women portrayed in this movie? How do you think this movie would be different if the two lead characters were female instead of male?
- In theaters: September 3, 1982
- On DVD or streaming: February 12, 2008
- Cast: Scott Baio, Willie Aames, Heather Thomas
- Director: Robert J. Rosenthal
- Studio: MGM
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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