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Alan Rudolph
Meat Loaf
Writing Credits:
Big Boy Medlin, Michael Ventura, Zalman King, Alan Rudolph

Bands make it rock, but roadies make it roll.

Down-home Texas boy Travis Redfish (Meat Loaf) falls hard for Lola, a glitter-spangled groupie determined to lose her virginity to Alice Cooper. Hoping to woo her, Travis signs on with a traveling rock band and soon finds himself celebrated as the "greatest roadie of all time"! But Lola's date with destiny (and Cooper) looms. Can true love survive rock'n'roll?

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $14.95
Release Date: 4/15/2003

• Theatrical Trailer

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Roadie (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 28, 2003)

My first sign that 1980’s Roadie might not offer a very interesting flick: it’s rated “PG”! Admittedly, “PG” was broader back before the invention of “PG-13” in 1984, and some movies with that rating pushed the “R” envelope pretty hard. Given Roadie’s subject matter, I expected it to push that envelope.

However, that didn’t happen. A bizarre little fable, Roadie occasionally flirts with rugged subject matter, but it mostly remained strangely innocent and innocuous. Roadie follows Texas trucker Travis Redfish (Meat Loaf). His father Corpus C. Redfish (Art Carney) owns a salvage business, and Travis lives at home with dad and his sister Alice (Rhonda Bates).

Travis stops to help a busted-down RV because he sees a babe in the vehicle. They’re hauling the equipment for Hank Williams Jr., and Travis meets Lola (Kaki Hunter), a young woman on her way to New York City to meet Alice Cooper and become the “greatest groupie of all-time”. Because he’s infatuated with Lola, Travis agrees to drive the equipment to Austin.

On the way, Travis gets to know Lola. She claims that Cooper invited her to New York, but it soon becomes clear that she doesn’t actually know the singer. When they get to the gig, Travis displays extraordinary skills as a roadie. After he experiences “brainlock” following a fight, manager Ace (Joe Spano) and promoter Mohammed Johnson (Don Cornelius) get Lola to entice Travis into becoming a full-time roadie. The rest of the movie follows Travis, Lola and others on the road. They first go to Los Angeles, where Travis learns more revelations about his would-be sweetie. The film pursues their journey as a potential couple as they travel inexorably toward the climax in New York.

Like other early Eighties flicks such as Used Cars, Roadie is the kind of flick that probably seemed hilarious at the time but that hasn’t aged well. Roadie features only the most rudimentary of plots, as the story really feels like little more than an excuse for marginally connected gags and musical cameos. The movie features a lot of real-life acts; in addition to Hank Williams Jr. and Alice Cooper, we see performances from Roy Orbison, Blondie, and Asleep At the Wheel. It’s an unusual mélange of genres that functions sporadically well but doesn’t really add much to the movie. If anything, the concert sequences seem like little more than filler.

Most of the musicians simply play, but some act as well. Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Cooper get the chance to flex their acting muscles to a moderate degree, and this creates a little fun. Neither do much in their parts, but it’s neat to see them try to act.

Of course, a musician turned actor plays our lead as well. At the start of the film, Loaf seems exceptionally flat and uninspired. However, he starts to come to life as the movie progresses. He seems very cartoony early, but he turns more natural and confident as time passes. His work isn’t terrific, but it appears acceptable.

Granted, it helps that Roadie is little more than a cartoon fable anyway. It tends toward broad comedy mixed with stabs at romance between Lola and Travis. Neither element ignites. The gags feel like Saturday Night Live rejects like one with a box of Tide filled with cocaine. Other attempts at humor seem equally lame and obnoxious, such as Mohammed’s constant misuse of the name “Redfish”.

Roadie seems like an odd and fairly pointless semi-satirical fantasy. At times it feels like a self-conscious attempt to mock other conventions; for example, the gratuitous car chase knows that it’s gratuitous. However, Roadie doesn’t enjoy the smarts or cohesion to make it a more pointed experience. Instead, it meanders through unfunny and dopey comedic sketches and sporadically effective musical performances. Generally loud and annoying, Roadie fails to engage the viewer.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D-

Roadie appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Despite the film’s age and obscurity, the image looked surprisingly positive.

Sharpness appeared solid. Any examples of mild softness passed quickly and made little impression. Instead, the movie seemed crisp and detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects also caused no concerns, and I witnessed no signs of edge enhancement. After the extremely grainy opening credits, the movie remained pretty clean. Occasionally I noticed examples of speckles, but that was basically it. Otherwise the image looked clean and free from defects.

The movie enjoyed a vivid palette, and the DVD duplicated the tones well. The colors appeared bright and dynamic throughout the movie. Even when we saw colored lights during club scenes, they came across as tight and well defined. Blacks were deep and rich, while shadows looked clear and appropriately opaque. Low-light situations displayed fine definition and didn’t seem too dark. The picture of Roadie showed its age a little too often for me to grade it over a “B+”, but it still seemed quite pleasing.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Roadie also seemed above average for an aging flick. While the soundfield didn’t present a tremendously active image, it came to life better than I expected. Music showed decent stereo imaging, and various effects popped up appropriately within the spectrum. For example, the multiple TV screens at the Redfish manor spread nicely around the area, and a car chase moved well across the front. The surrounds also kicked in good reinforcement and proved active during some of these sequences. The soundfield was pretty well integrated and blended together neatly. It didn’t seem terribly special, but it was fairly ambitious given what I expected from it.

Audio was a little erratic but it remained good for its age. Speech appeared natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects occasionally betrayed some light distortion, but they usually sounded accurate and fairly full-bodied. Some of the rock songs seemed a little lackluster, but they generally were acceptably clear and bright, and the synthesizer score was nicely robust. Bass response didn’t excel, but it seemed positive overall. No one will use Roadie to demo their system, but I felt quite impressed with it when I considered age and genre considerations.

While Roadie displayed surprisingly strong picture and sound, unfortunately it didn’t include substantial supplements. All we find is a silly trailer.

Well, I guess you can’t expect much for $14.95 list, and Roadie is one of those obscure flicks that is probably lucky it got any form of DVD release. The movie seems like an incoherent piece of comic fluff that never manages to become entertaining. The gags fall flat and the characters don’t rise above one-dimensional status. The DVD lacks many extras, but it does look and sound surprisingly good. I can’t recommend this clunker to new viewers, but fans of the film should be very happy with this disc.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3529 Stars Number of Votes: 17
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