Heavenly Bodies

June 3, 2011

Canada’s official entry in the Flashdance sweepstakes is here: Heavenly Bodies, a brainless clone of the maddeningly popular dance film. This one’s set in Toronto (although the city is never named), and it may be even more repulsive than the original.

It’s about some 9-to-5 secretaries who pool their money and rent a dance studio, which opens as an aerobics club with the name Heavenly Bodies. This of course is an excuse for plenty of shots of nubile women in tights and torn T-shirts.

Interestingly enough, none of the women pictured here seem to need exercise classes; they’re all skeletons with a smattering of flesh. But no matter. Half the film is spent watching dozens of gals shake their groove things and drench themselves in sweat—and for all that, the film is oddly sexless.

Anyway, our heroine, played by a Jennifer Beals lookalike named Cynthia Dale, is the main instructor down at Heavenly Bodies. She decides to audition for a TV workout instruction show, and wins the main spot; in so doing, she incurs the wrath of an aerobics instructor from a competing studio (Laura Henry).

Then Cynthia snares the attentions of her rival’s big-bucks boyfriend (Walter George Alton), who also manages that competing studio.

Listen, if I learned anything from this film, it’s this: Hell hath no fury like an aerobics instructor scorned. The rival arranges for poor Cynthia to lose the lease on her studio. This makes Cynthia upset—you can tell, because she sticks out her lower lip and gets a determined look in her dimple.

Cynthia challenges the rival studio to a winner-take-all contest: They’ll compete in a marathon workout session, and whoever lasts the longest wins the Heavenly Bodies building.

Just in case I haven’t made that clear enough, let me repeat: Opposing teams of workout fanatics will face each other and try to out-exercise the other guys until they all drop. If that sounds like the ingredients for one of the most ludicrous sequences ever put on film, you’re right. The last 20 minutes of this movie are devoted to a bunch of people flopping their limbs about to blaring electronically programmed music, as they expire one by one.

That’s about as dynamic as the action gets. Every once in a while, Cynthia breaks out in a “dance” and works off her frustrations. It’s the worst kind of Flashdance watered-down modern dance, stretched out to fit the length of an MTV video.

The acting is of the sort where the inexperienced players (and that’s just about everybody) over-enunciate all their lines; you can almost hear the dialogue coach telling them, “Pronounce your Ts! Pronounce your Ts!”

The only moment of truth occurs when the bad girl marvels at our heroine’s forthrightness in proposing the competition: “You’re about as dumb as you look, aren’t you?” To which the audience replies: “Well…maybe not quite that dumb.”

First published in the Herald, February 7, 1985

I never thought I would experience this film again, but such are the glories of the online age: the movie’s been posted on YouTube, and the disbelief can be experienced here. During the very, very long opening montage, the heroine played by Cynthia Dale (her career still going strong, by the way) gazes at a poster of Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, possibly the most direct referential linkage in a film since Belmondo looked at the still of Bogart in Breathless.