Monday, November 10, 2014

Ancient Artifacts Turn Up In The Darndest Places

Thanks to the Bears' defense complete no-show on Sunday Night Football last night, I stumbled across the Adventures of Johnny Tao (though the channel guide said it was "Adventures of Johnny Tao Rock", but whatever).

Johnny Dow lives in a dying town called Dry Spring, running a largely derelict gas station, and mostly makes money showing tourists the guitar his father used to make his one, brief hit (that reached #39 on the charts for 2 weeks). The guitar was supposedly carved from a spear that fell from the sky one night, but Johnny and his brother Edgar have yet to find the other half. It's not really a sustainable economic situation, so Johnny's ready to leave, over the protests of the politically active Jenny, who works at the diner. Then Edgar finds the other half, which had a demon imprisoned in it, which possesses Edgar and begins controlling other people in town.

Johnny doesn't really have any clue what's going on, the one cop in town is completely useless, but here comes Mika, who is the latest in a lineage of warriors tasked with protecting the Earth from stuff like this. She's got the skills, the motorcycle, the swords, the black leather outfit. Johnny knows a little martial arts - he fights a few of the demon's warriors over the course of the film, and usually does well for awhile, but inevitably gets beat up, because he doesn't maintain focus, or lacks confidence in himself. Or he just isn't strong enough. When it becomes clear he won't stop trying to help (because of Edgar and all his other possessed friends), Mika tries to teach him some things, but I'm not sure it really helps. Then she dies fighting the demon, and before she passes away, transfers her, um I'm not sure, spirit, strength, knowledge, something to Johnny. Then he goes and stops the bad guy, wearing his father's '50s style leather jacket with the little tassels/fringe stuff on the sleeves, and the guitar on his back. He stops the demon (with some help from Edgar), the town is revitalized as a tourist attraction, and Johnny becomes stays there, but travels around (in his dad's restored T-bird maybe, I don't know old car models) as needed, fighting the forces of evil.

So, in theory, a guy who fights otherworldly forces of evil while dressed like a country rocker from a half-century ago, with a guitar carved from an ancient, mystical weapon, sounds pretty cool. Johnny's a generally nice guy who tries hard but isn't perhaps the brightest and doesn't believe in himself. I'm not sure why he doesn't believe in himself, considering everyone in the movie keeps telling him he should, and providing positive encouragement. But I guess he looks at his life in a crappy trailer near a dilapidated gas station and wonders what the heck they're talking about. Can't fault him for wanting to get out of Dry Springs, regardless of Jenny's feelings. Also, I think there's some fairly half-baked romantic subplot between the two. I was still changing channels during the movie, but I came back at a point when she seemed very cross at him about something, and all he'd been doing was trying to learn a few things from Mika. Maybe it was one of those "She's showing him some moves and it leads to awkward positions right as Jenny walks in, ooooooooh" things.

Who knows, it didn't go anywhere, because I didn't really see Johnny and Jenny interact much between then and the end of the film when Johnny is now full of confidence and can totally kiss the girl he likes. It didn't seem like it had much relevance to the plot, just kind of there because they felt it had to be. Mika getting killed was kind of lousy, though. She's been training for this her whole life, and she gets killed and has to hand the job off to this well-meaning schmuck. Remember Ernest, from Ernest Goes to Camp and all that? Johnny kind of reminds me of Ernest, so imagine a totally kick-butt, calm and collected warrior getting killed and having to ask that guy to save the day in her stead. I guess Johnny had greater potential, and he probably only pulled it off because of whatever that sparkly green powder was that she breathed into his mouth, and he had the guitar/spear, but still. A bum end for Mika.

I don't know if it's good or bad that she didn't technically lose the battle. She had run Edgar/the demon through, she went to pick up the guitar, and the demon shot her in the back. I guess she wasn't prepared for him to use guns. He also tried to shoot Johnny during the final battle, but the first shot was blocked with the guitar (since at least Johnny was looking at him when he drew the gun), and while the demon may have understood guns, he didn't understand counting his shots, or reloading. Lucky for Johnny, not so lucky for Mika. Ultimately it took me out of the film because I was annoyed at the cliche of the highly competent lady character failing and the up to this point significantly less competent male character finishing the job. Too bad, it was actually a sort of enjoyable, inconsequential little movie up to that point.

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