In this painfully dumb high school comedy, Scott Baio is Barney, a teen scientist who experiments on lab mice and grows specially modified orchids for his high school’s principal, Walter Coolidge (Robert Mandan, who played a lot of high school principals back in the day). When there’s an accident in the lab, Barney develops telekinetic powers. Barney then falls in love with the class president, Bernadette (Felice Schachter), while his best friend Peyton (Willie Aames) pursues the beautiful but vain Jane (Heather Thomas). Barney uses his powers to make a ventriloquist act as if it’s possessed and to help Peyton rig a casino-themed frat party. Meanwhile, Scatman Crothers plays the school’s baseball coach and has a long scene where he gets high and imagines that he’s riding a bicycle with Albert Einstein. That’s actually kind of cool.
Zapped! is a movie where Scott Baio magically gains the power to move things with his mind and yet the most implausible part of the movie is the idea of Willie Aames being the most popular student at the high school. Heather Thomas is believable as a cheerleader and Felice Schachter is perfectly cast as the brainy class president. Even Scott Baio is not terrible as Barney. But then Willie Aames shows up and we find out that he’s supposed to be a chick magnet and it becomes impossible for those watching to continue to suspend their disbelief.
Not much really happens in Zapped! Even after he gets his powers, Barney is frustratingly passive character who just does whatever Peyton tells him to do. Barney uses his powers to help Peyton show up Jane’s college boyfriend and he uses his powers to help Peyton win games at the school carnival and then Barney uses his powers to help out Peyton when Jane’s boyfriend tries to beat him up. Maybe Barney needs to get new friends. The only time Barney uses his powers for himself is when he’s playing baseball and he makes the ball stop in mid-air so that he can hit it. Somehow, no one watching the game seems to find it strange that the baseball stops in mid-air. The movie ends with a take on Carrie. Barney uses his powers to blow off everyone’s clothes at prom. It’s all to help Peyton, of course.
Zapped! supposedly has a cult following, probably composed of people who were 13 when they first saw it and who only remember the sweater scene with Heather Thomas and the final prom scene. (Or they’re remembering the famous poster, which is a lot more fun than anything that actually happens in the movie.) Other than that, this is one of the most boring films ever made. Perhaps the only interesting thing about the movie is that Heather Thomas sued the production when they failed to acknowledge that a body double was used for Jane’s nude scenes.
On a positive note, Zapped! did give us this classic Onion headline: