Movie Review: Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!
Almost two years ago, I took one for the team and watched – and reviewed – the craptacular movie known as Eddie and the Cruisers, the 1983 film about a fictitious Jersey Shore band that was a complete rip-off of Mr. Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. Though I was less than impressed with the movie and its dumb plot, it did capture the spirit of the Jersey Shore pretty well. And though I swore back then that I’d never watch it again, I did feel compelled to watch its sequel, 1989’s Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! – admittedly for no other reason than to have something to blog about.
To understand this film, I’ll first give a brief recap of its predecessor. Back in 1963, we’re introduced to singer/guitarist Eddie Wilson and his band, the Cruisers. They play the Jersey Shore bar scene, make an album, and get popular. Then they make a second album, but the record label didn’t like it, so the overly sensitive Eddie freaks out and steals the tapes, hides them, and kills himself. After an excessively long and drawn out plot, which hints that Eddie could have possibly faked his own death, his former bandmates find the lost tapes and sell them to the record label.
Fast-forward 20 years to when Eddie and the Cruisers II: Cruise Control takes place, and the band’s music is more popular than ever. That makes things weird for a particular construction worker in Canada who – spoiler alert – is really Eddie! Turns out he didn’t kill himself and just wanted to escape the spotlight by taking a blue-collar job in some alternate version of Montreal where no one speaks French and everyone has an American accent. To blend in, all Eddie has to do is grow out a pornstache and change his name to Joe West, and no one has a clue about his former identity.
However, his little secret is getting harder to keep. Not only did the record label release the album that they originally hated, but they also released the super secret tapes that Eddie recorded without his Cruisers. So, now that his music is all over the radio (and discussed on TV by special guest stars Martha Quinn of MTV fame and a rather spry 1989 version of Larry King), Eddie’s tough exterior is starting to crack. He even confides in his new love interest, Diane, about his real self.
He is also drawn back into music. He starts playing guitar with with some Billy Idol wannabe punk named “Rick Diesel,” and the two of them form a new band with a ragtag bunch of very 80s looking musicians. And just like in the first film, they even get their own version of an older, wiser African-
AmericanCanadian saxophone player in the mold of Clarence Clemons. When this new band (named Rock Solid!) becomes popular, Eddie finds that he can’t hide behind his pornstache any longer, so he shaves it off and reveals to the world that he is really Eddie Wilson!
Although Eddie and the Cruisers II: The Ed-pire Strikes Back lacks the Jersey-ness of the original, most of it taking place in Canada or New York, there are still plenty of Jersey moments to make it worthwhile (and worthy to be on this blog). For instance, there are a couple scenes of Eddie/Joe moping around on the pre-gentrified Asbury Park boardwalk or driving on the Turnpike, as well as flashbacks to his band’s heyday at the shore. Best of all, though, is when Diane asks Eddie/Joe what’s so special about New Jersey, and he responds:
“Baby, there’s nowhere else in the world like the Garden State! You got miles of swamps, and mountains of dumps… different colored rivers… automobile graveyards… breweries, factories, ballparks, all mixed up together. It’s the best place to live.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself!
All told, I actually found Eddie and the Cruisers II: Ed-iana Jones and the Last Cruise-ade better than the original. Sure, it lacks the mystery and intrigue of the first one, but instead we get a stronger plot and a much deeper look into the enigmatic Eddie Wilson character. Still, I can’t say I’d recommend it – it’s just too dated and weird and can’t stand apart from the original. But, if you just want to laugh at some crazy 80s hairstyles and marvel at how the movie got away with pretty much copying all of Bruce Springsteen’s songs, then this movie is for you!