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Five Under-Appreciated Movie Musicals You Should Watch Now

In honor of the Oscars celebrating the movie musical, I wanted to give proper celebration to some more off-beat gems from the past. These never achieved large commercial or critical success, but are worth some guilty-pleasure viewing.

1. Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)

Before Geena Davis was a serious acteur, she starred in this campy tale of a valley girl who meets three aliens (Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, and Marlon Wayans)who crash land in her pool. What’s a girl to do, but give them surfer boy makeovers and take them out on the town? The true genius is Julie Brown’s wacky song, including “Cause I’m a Blonde” which, well, doesn’t even make sense in the plot, but who cares.

2. Camp (2003)

Camp follows the draaaahmmma! of teens at a performing arts camp. There’s backstabbing, ambiguously gay hot guys, jealousy, and Steven Sondheim worship. The story is pretty standard, but the highlights are the strong performances by the teens, who all do pretty high-brow Broadway tunes, including Anna Kendrick who sabotages her enemy to take over her performance of “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company.

3. The Apple (1980)

The Apple is one of those movies that seem to have no other explanation other than that the creator had a fever dream and then felt compelled to adapt it to film. The film, released in 1980, takes place in 1994, in which an evil mastermind harnesses the power of celebrity worship to control the minds of the masses. Throw in some hippies, glitter, and The Rapture and you’ve got this film. Dismissed as nonsense by critics during its time, it seems to fit right into our pop star-obsessed culture. The above performance of “Speed” is not even that much different from a Lady Gaga performance.

4. Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

A film based on a cartoon from the seventies that nobody really cared about never really had a fighting chance. That, and in 2001, no one was really running to see Tara Reid in a starring role. It’s a shame, because Josie and The Pussycats is actually a smarter movie than you think it is. It was written and directed by the same creative forces behind Can’t Hardly Wait and features Parker Posey at her snarky best, harboring secret insecurities by parading around in ridiculous materialism and manipulation.

Similar to The Apple, Josie is about a small town band exploited by a devious record executive for the purpose of controlling teenagers through consumerism. Breckin Meyer, Seth Green, and Donald Faison make great cameos as member of DuJour, a sly parody of N*SYNC and the boy band explosion of the late nineties.

The soundtrack to the film is one of my favorite albums of the 2000s; catchy pop-punk songs written for the film and sung by Kay Hanley, singer of the 90s group Letters to Cleo. I dare you to not find yourself enjoying “Three Small Words” shown in the above video.

5. Grease 2 (1982)

Why would anyone even try to make a sequel to Grease? Well, someone did, and in good conscience I cannot declare this a well, eh, good film. As you can imagine, much of the original cast wanted nothing to do with it, leaving only Frenchie and the school principal as the only common characters in the film. Pulling a gender switcheroo, this time around, the shy, conservative foreign student tries to impress the rough and rebellious Pink Lady. Many fans will tell you Michelle Pfeiffer is awful, the second half of the film is way inferior to the first, the humor is crude and childish, just to name a few.

Over the years it has collected some camp value and cult status, and many of the songs, including “Reproduction”, shown above, are incredibly catchy and revel in their own silliness. In our current culture where bad movies become a form of entertainment in itself, Grease 2’s faults almost seem intentional. Almost.

Regardless, there are some incredibly catchy, silly numbers where you can’t help but sing along and memorize the choreography. You’ll also catch a lot of actors “before they were famous”, including a very young Pamela Adlon, frequent star of Louie and Californication.

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