Shake, Rattle & Rock!
Early in the Clinton era, Miramax and Showtime embarked on a promising experiment, assigning quirky directors to film low-budget genre movies based on the titles of Eisenhower-era exploitation movies from Sam Arkoff's AIP studio. Dimension has been slowly releasing the results on video for the past few years, and while the series got off to a great start with Robert Rodriguez's rollicking, revved-up Roadracers, subsequent releases (Girls In Prison, Confessions Of A Sorority Girl) have been big on sleaze but short on fun. But the series rebounds smashingly with Shake, Rattle & Rock!, a delightful comedy from Allan Arkush, whose Rock 'N' Roll High School ranks as one of the greatest rock movies of all time. A sort of prequel and companion piece to High School, Shake, Rattle & Rock! similarly pits the grown-up forces of repression against the youthful, anarchic spirit of rock 'n' roll. A pitch-perfect mixture of satire, music, and social commentary, Shake wears its influences on its sleeve, opening with Renée Zellweger bopping about while lip-synching giddily to "The Girl Can't Help It." Channeling Frank Tashlin through Hairspray through High School, Shake stars Zellweger as a music-crazed teenage rebel and aspiring musician whose dream is to perform on an American Bandstand-like television show hosted by Howie Mandel. But she encounters plenty of resistance, both from her suspicious, conservative mother (Nora Dunn) and from a community that views rock 'n' roll as a libidinous, race-blurring Pandora's box that must be kept closed at all costs. As Zellweger befriends a black singing trio and contemplates the freedom offered by swaggering, iconoclastic biker John Doe, the communal elders clamp down even harder, led by censorious dragon lady Mary Woronov. Like Rock 'N' Roll High School, Shake understands the life-affirming spirit of both B-movies and rock 'n' roll, and derives its joyous energy from the exhilaration of everyday kids throwing off the shackles of societal control and giving themselves over to a primal, driving beat. Smart, funny, and wonderfully kinetic, Shake does right by its impeccable influences while maintaining a uniquely giddy, innocent charm.