There are those for whom even the cheesiest of ’80s power ballads remain a guilty pleasure. That demographic will find similar enjoyment in this cheeky comedy. Told primarily in flashback, it traces the rise and fall of Eternity, a pop duo determined to make R&B music the way it’s supposed to be done. By two white-bread guys, that is.
Todd Lucas (Barrett Crake) is an innocent singer-songwriter, stranger to sex and spirits stronger than a Shirley Temple. B.J. Fairchild (Myko Olivier), an oversexed sax man, plays cop show theme songs at the local dive bar. The two run into each other at the purposefully-named clothing store B.J. Maxx, right next to the pleather section. The suggestive nature of their first encounter (Todd bumping into a bent-over B.J. from behind) and repeated lines like “Everyone loves B.J.’s!” set one up about 90 percent of what’s to come.
Campy homoeroticism abounds as Todd and B.J. climb the charts with “Make Love, Not Just Sex,” and “Sambuca and Cider.” But what distinguishes this comedy from a slew of tired spoofs is the writing. The script hits the predictable notes, but then usually offers one or two more uniquely goofy chords for good measure. Some lines touch the absurd—“ B.J., we should be afraid of ninjas, not women”—but the two leads, who both create lovable characters, pull them off.
There is also great attention to detail in the sight gags and physical comedy. Myko Olivier, in particular, gets to show off great comic chops, while Barrett Crake is more the straight man (itself a double entendre in this context). It’s a happy coincidence that Crake bears a physical resemblance to another classic ’80s underdog: Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The costumes, make-up, hair and production design are all commendable. The look of the film transcends the common fashion clichés, turning the amp up to 11 on mocking the Wham! look. At one point, in a particularly inspired touch, B.J. sports a bleach blonde mustache. At the same time, it’s amusing to note that some of the outlandish outfits could fit in with our current hipster chic.
Eternity is at its comic best when it examines the irony at the heart of Wham!’s sex appeal. Two English women watching B.J. and Todd perform wonder out loud why they are so strangely attracted to two men acting and looking so blatantly gay. Another scene has the group’s manager (a pitch-perfect Jon Gries) hilariously, hesitantly hint at their homosexuality.
One feels more comedy could have been mined here, instead of letting the film’s second half turn into a predictable riff on Behind the Music. Eternity doesn’t earn all of its 90 minutes; it deserves to be album-length instead. But there is fun to be had, and it doesn’t hurt that the original songs featured here are about as catchy as the Top 40 classics they’re mocking.