Once upon a time there was a cable channel called MTV that played music videos. Hard to believe, isn’t it? In this world of music videos, a young actress/model named Tawny Kitaen became a star on the channel. She wasn’t a singer or even a VeeJay…she was the girl who wore a white negligee and danced on top of fancy cars in Whitesnake’s music video for “Here I Go Again.” She actually appeared in several videos for that particular hair band and even ended up married to frontman David Coverdale for a time. Sorry, but watching Coverdale suck on Kitaen’s neck at the end of the band’s “Is This Love” video is enough to make anyone blurt out “Eww!” Kitaen had made a few film appearances before becoming the Whitesnake girl, most famously as the bride-to-be opposite Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party. Today, though, we’ll look at a film in which she plays an actual pop singer, rather than just music video eye candy…1986’s Crystal Heart.
Our story centers on a young man named Christopher Newley (Lee Curreri). He’s an aspiring composer, the only son of a filthy rich family…oh, and he happens to be a bubble boy. It’s never really spelled out what his condition is, but it’s horrible enough that he needs to spend every minute of his life in a carefully controlled environment. Christopher also is a bit obsessed with an up-and-coming pop star, Alley Daniels (Kitaen). In fact, Christopher has started writing letters to Alley and she has become fascinated enough to pay him a visit. Besides, her slimey manager (Simon Andreu) thinks she can get the cover of the National Enquirer by striking up a friendship with the bubble boy. I don’t think being on the cover of the Enquirer has ever been considered a desirable thing…but ok.
As it turns out, the relationship becomes more than a friendship. Things start to become a bit romantic for Christopher and Alley, but there’s a problem…he’s in a bubble, remember? However, this doesn’t stop us from getting to experience what may be one of the most awkward and ridiculous love scenes in movie history as Curreri and Kitaen both strip down to nothing and start kissing and rubbing up against the glass. Of course, this just makes things worse for Chris. So, rather than face having to spend more money on Windex, Chris busts out of his room and goes to track down Alley. However, will true love be enough to keep him alive?
The premise of Crystal Heart feels very much like a made-for-TV movie. I’m sure this is enhanced somewhat by the similarities between it and the 1976 TV film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble starring John Travolta. Though the story feels like TV fare, the execution does not. The filmmakers take several opportunities to earn their R rating with the bizarre up-against-the-glass love scene being the most glaring example. For you children of the 80’s enticed by the thought of seeing the famous red-headed car dancer sans clothing…be warned, the sequence is really weird and uncomfortable to watch. A dream sequence that is just plain nuts follows a few minutes later in which the nude Mrs Whitesnake becomes a bloody mess after crashing through a glass shower door.
I do have to give Miss Kitaen some degree of credit, however. As an actress,she’s not half bad. There is a sweetness to her character that makes the goofier aspects of the story a bit more bearable. She does a convincing job as a Madonna-wannabe and though she’s not exactly worthy of awards, she does hold her own. That’s a heck of a lot more than can be said for Curreri! He was famous at this time for playing the role keyboardist Bruno in the film Fame and the spinoff TV show of the same name. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that his talents tickling the ivories far exceeded his acting abilities. His performance here is wooden at best…bordering on annoying in some of the film’s worst moments. The ridiculous finale is especially silly in which Curreri is fine, making love to Kitaen on the beach, one minute and on his death-bed the next.
Though there is some appeal to Kitaen’s performance, ultimately Crystal Heart is a silly and sappy boy in a bubble story. While Tawny Kitaen may not have achieved greatness as an actress, she will always be one of the greats when it comes to dancing on top of cars.