Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert J. Rosenthal|
|Produced by||Jeff Apple|
|Edited by||Robert A. Ferretti|
|Distributed by||Embassy Pictures|
|Box office||$16.9 million|
At Ralph Waldo Emerson High School, bookish student Barney Springboro (Scott Baio) performs various scientific experiments on laboratory mice until his friend, yearbook photographer Peyton Nichols (Willie Aames), retrieves him for a class assembly. Peyton questions Barney's lack of interest in finding a girlfriend as the students rally in preparation for an upcoming baseball game against a rival high school. Afterward, Peyton seduces one of the school administrators, Corinne Updike, and Barney returns to his experiments.
At the insistence of the pesky class president, Bernadette (Felice Schachter), Peyton promises to take photographs of Barney posing with the genetically modified orchids he has been growing for the school principal, Walter Coolidge. Barney drops the beaker containing the mice's feeding solution, producing a cloud of shimmery smoke that knocks him unconscious. Sometime later, he awakens and returns home, where his uptight mother chastises him for his tardiness and antisocial behavior. As she yells, Barney's bedroom door mysteriously slams shut. During English class the next day, Barney fantasizes about a popular but vain girl named Jane Mitchell (Heather Thomas). When the teacher calls on him unexpectedly, Barney furrows his brow, causing the map above the chalkboard to fall on her head.
That afternoon, Peyton asks Jane on a date, but she reminds him that she has a college-aged boyfriend. As Barney stares at Jane's chest, her cardigan bursts open, leaving everyone confused. In the lab, Barney experiments with his new telekinetic abilities by levitating various objects across the room, unaware of Bernadette and Peyton, who are watching through the window. When his friends confront him, however, Barney convinces them to keep his powers a secret. At home, Barney propels his model spaceship through the air, imagining the crew members inside have come alive. He then animates a ventriloquist dummy, which frightens Mrs. Springboro so much that she believes her son is possessed.
On the day of the big baseball game, Barney manipulates the ball and hits the winning home run. Meanwhile, Principal Coolidge attempts to break into Barney's lab to check the growth of his orchids, but cannot obtain the key. After Barney agrees to let Bernadette write a report about him for her older sister's college science journal, they notice Mrs. Burnhart sneak into his lab and uncover a pot of Peyton's marijuana hidden behind the orchids. She retrieves Principal Coolidge, but they return to discover the plants are missing. Baseball coach Dexter Jones finds Barney and Bernadette stuffing the plants in the incinerator, and the smoke causes him to become intoxicated: under the influence, he imagines riding a bicycle with Albert Einstein while being chased by his wife, who is dressed like a Viking warrior.
Over the weekend, Barney, Peyton, and Bernadette go to a pre-graduation celebration at an amusement park, during which Peyton challenges Jane's boyfriend, Robert Wolcott, to a beer-drinking contest and a carnival games that Peyton ends up winning. While on a spinning ride, Barney increases the speed of Robert's compartment, causing him to vomit and lose the bet. That night, Peyton brings Jane home and seduces her by pretending to act older and more mature. Meanwhile, Barney and Bernadette have dinner and talk about former crushes. The pair spend the next afternoon together in the park before returning to Barney's lab, where they make love.
At school on Monday, Jane admits that she regrets having sex with Peyton and returns to her boyfriend. Robert, however, invites Peyton to a casino-themed college fraternity party with the hopes of winning the money that he owes him for the drinking contest. Peyton begs Barney to attend so he can manipulate the roulette wheel, but Bernadette becomes angry that he would use his powers to gamble. Meanwhile, Mrs. Updike convinces Principal Coolidge to respond to a personal advertisement in the newspaper to meet a woman for a date.
At the restaurant, Principal Coolidge discovers that his date is Rose Burnhart, and the two finally succumb to their long-time attraction by having sex under the table. During the fraternity party, Barney attempts to manipulate the roulette ball, but causes a commotion among the guests when he accidentally levitates the entire wheel. When Bernadette refuses to answer his telephone calls, he spends the night in his laboratory drinking whiskey. Hung over the next morning, he apologizes to Bernadette and arranges to meet her at the prom that evening. Before he leaves for the dance, however, Mrs. Springboro hires two priests to perform an exorcism on her son, and Barney uses his ventriloquist dummy to chase them around the house so he can get away.
Peyton and Jane are crowned prom king and queen, and Jane rejects Peyton's continued advances. Peyton realize Jane is nothing but a snob, whatever he does is not good enough for her. As Barney dances with Bernadette, Peyton ruins the moment by offering his friend airplane tickets to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they can continue gambling. When Robert confronts Peyton about the roulette game, Peyton apologizes and gives him a packet of nude photographs he took of Jane. Enraged, Robert attacks, and Barney uses telekinesis to summon a large gust of wind that tears off the students' clothes and sends everybody running outside. Barney also uses his telekinesis to take down Robert and his friends and humiliate Jane by her prom dress stripped off and be laughed at while she walked away in shame. A wayward fire hose knocks Barney unconscious and he wakes up believing that he has lost his powers. However, while leaving the school, Barney grabs Bernadette by the waist and propels them through the night sky in a cloud of shimmery dust.
- Scott Baio as Barney Springboro
- Willie Aames as Peyton Nichols
- Felice Schachter as Bernadette
- Heather Thomas as Jane Mitchell
- Robert Mandan as Principal Walter J. Coolidge
- Greg Bradford as Robert Wolcott
- Scatman Crothers as Coach Dexter Jones
- Sue Ane Langdon as Rose Burnhart
- Roger Bowen as Mr. Springboro
- Marya Small as Mrs. Springboro
- Merritt Butrick as Gary Cooter
- Ed Deezen as Sheldon
- LaWanda Page as Mrs. Jones
- Corine Bohrer as Cindy
- Jan Leighton as Albert Einstein
The film used several techniques to capture the feel of its high school setting for nostalgic fans. It was filmed largely at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles during the spring of 1981 with the students as extras. The storyline rarely leaves the high school. The students talk mostly about social life and college plans, while the prom is in the gym. The senior trip is to the local amusement park. Of the major stars, however, only Felice Schachter was still a high school student when the film was shot. In fact, she missed her own prom to shoot the prom sequence in the film.
The film used a body-double for Thomas' nude scenes, as she refused to remove her own clothes; further controversy was generated when a complaint was filed by Thomas about a likeness of her head being pasted onto someone else's nude body.
Baio and Aames would work together again the following year on the sitcom Charles in Charge.
The film's soundtrack was composed by Charles Fox and Miles Goodman as well as John M. Keane and Tom Keane of The Keane Brothers, and featured performances by Joe "Bean" Esposito ("Updike's Theme") and David Pomeranz ("Got to Believe in Magic", "King and Queen of Hearts"), which were big hits in the Philippines.
Zapped! was given a limited release on July 23, 1982, earning $823,548 in that weekend, ranking number 17 in the domestic box office. On September 3, 1982, the film was released wide and made $3,012,431, ranking number 4 behind An Officer and a Gentleman's sixth weekend, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial thirteenth, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High fourth. By the end of its run, Zapped! grossed $16,897,768.
ZAPPED!, which opens today at Loews State and a number of other unfortunate theaters, is a half-baked, rather retarded parody of Carrie and a number of other films that, using the awesome power of their ignorance, drove telekinesis into the ground.
Picture a bad Walt Disney film—but with more exposed flesh than you'll see in all the Disney films put together—with bits and pieces scalped from box-office hits, and you've got a pretty good idea of what this movie is all about.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested that "it's hard to believe the writers of Zapped!, an absolutely abominable movie ... are even old enough to hold a pen. The Daily Courier added that it was "so puerile and uninspired that it makes Porky's seem like Ninotchka in comparison." The Montreal Gazette said that there was "nothing innately hilarious about telekinesis, but that didn't stop the creative geniuses in Hollywood from seeing if they could pervert it into a smirky adolescent experience." A review from the smaller Beaver County Times said, "it's enough to make [Baio's] young fans go Zzzzzz." A review that was published in the Toledo Blade was only slightly less negative, stating that it "has its moments, but they tend not to hang around together."
When asked to comment in 2014, Baio remembered the film fondly:
Great movie. Loved it then. Love it today. I get more people asking about that movie than anything, no lie. And I had a ball making that. A cute, fun teen movie, and it made money. And it had Scatman Crothers! He was a good guy, and supposedly he smoked pot every day. That's what I was told, but I don't actually know. But I got to work with Willie [Aames], and it was a great experience ... Good people. Good crew. Good director. 
Awards and nominations
Aames was nominated by for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor at the 3rd Golden Raspberry Awards for his performance in Zapped!, as well as his performance in Paradise, but lost to Laurence Olivier in Inchon.
Zapped! was initially released on VHS, CED videodisc, and on LaserDisc by Embassy Pictures in 1983 and later reissued by MGM Home Entertainment on VHS. It was released on DVD on February 12, 2008. In June 2008, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment issued it as a double feature with Making the Grade.
In popular culture
Despite initially negative reviews, Zapped! became a cult classic, selling heavily in videos. In 1990, it was followed by a direct-to-video sequel, Zapped Again! (with only Sue Ane Langdon returning from the original cast).
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- Canby, Vincent (August 27, 1982). Zapped, The New York Times, Retrieved December 15, 2010
- Selberling, Irene (16 September 1982). Zapped was a good idea that didn't work out, Leader-Post, Retrieved December 15, 2010
- Uricchio, Marylynn (August 23, 1982). Juvenile 'Zapped' fails to make grade, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Retrieved December 15, 2010
- Freedman, Richard (December 2, 1982). 'Zapped' rehashes old Flubber formula, The Daily Courier, Retrieved December 15, 2010
- Bailey, Bruce (November 3, 1982). 'Zapped' should whisk itself off screen, The Gazette, Retrieved December 15, 2010
- Romano, Carlin (September 8, 1982). As A Parody, 'Zapped' Reveals A Few High Spots, The Blade (Toledo), Retrieved December 15, 2010
- Will Harris, "Scott Baio talks Chachi, Bob Loblaw, and Howard Cosell", AV Club 3 April 2014 accessed 7 April 2014