I’ve spent my entire life living in the middle of the country. Hundreds of miles from the ocean in every direction. In the summer when we wanted to get cool we went to the pool, rarely did we go to a beach. For the folks in Hollywood, though, making a movie about summer often means a movie about going to the beach. Our film today takes us to one of California’s most iconic sandy areas in 1978’s Malibu Beach.
I might as well say it from the beginning…there’s really not much in the way of a story here, but I’ll give it a shot. Basically, school is out which means everybody heads for the beach, including a dog that likes to steal sunbathers’ bikini tops. Sadly, he’s not the lead character in the film. Most of the film focuses on Malibu regulars Bobby (James Daughton…from Animal House) and his buddy Paul (Michael Luther). Also down at the beach is Dina (Kim Lankford) who has just gotten a job as a lifeguard, and her friend Sally (Susan Player Jarreau). These four end up hooking up with each other, though it takes them a bit of time to figure out which guy goes with which girl.
Another regular at the beach is Dugan (Stephen Oliver), an older guy who likes to pump iron and wear Speedos. He’s got a bit of a crush on Dina and is none too happy about Bobby getting in his way. This leads to a rivalry that results in a disastrous drag race in the beach parking lot. The crash at the end of the race is pretty spectacular for a low-budget pic like this. Both drivers don’t get so much as a ticket, though, despite the fact that it all took place right under the nose of stoner rookie cop Rodney (Paris Clifton Buckner).
More hijinks ensue as the summer continues. At one point, Bobby and Dina decide to make good use of her parents’ house when they go away for the weekend, nearly getting caught in the act when they return to fetch mom’s checkbook. More trouble with Dugan comes when he and Bobby get into a fight at a party, and eventually try to settle things between them once and for all with a swimming contest.
As I said, there’s not really much of a story here. The film is basically a bunch of short situations that have very little connection to each other. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are many films with no story that manage to be entertaining. Unfortunately, our lead characters here are so flat that it’s hard to take an interest in anything that they are doing. They are just kind of there and little is done to actually develop them as characters. About all we know about them is that they all like to hang out at the beach.
The supporting characters are even more half-baked than the leads. There’s a rich smart kid who only seems to exist so that there is a mansion to throw a party at. We also have a girl that works at the snack bar who keeps flirting with Rodney the cop…and who I kept confusing with Sally. Strangest of all is the introduction of two bullies who slash Paul’s tires in once scene. Paul quickly gets his revenge on them and then we never hear from them again. Wha?!?!
The one character who does have some appeal is Dugan. It’s not spelled out in detail, but based on his appearance we assume that he’s got a few years on these other punks. He’s a bit full of himself, maybe a bit past his prime but still trying to be the king of the beach. That has potential. Had the focus of the film been this aging beach bum trying to fit in with the younger generation I think we would’ve ended up with a better film.
I don’t think I would call Malibu Beach and awful film, there’s just nothing about it to really draw the viewer in. Unless you’re into dogs that steal bikini tops, I guess.