The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

April Fool’s Week: The Nightmare of Dream a Little Dream

Written by: Beth Fred, Special to CC2K

ImageWhen I got this assignment a week ago, I had no expectations for this film at all (which was probably for the best), but I feared if it was nominated for April Fool’s Week it might not be that good (understatement).  Still, I’m an optimist at heart.  Although I was a mere five years old when Dream a Little Dream made its debut, I have found several 80s movies really enjoyable—once you get past the serious abuse of AquaNet and spandex.  I clung to hope that this would be an 80s “musical” that rendered itself hilarious in spite of the unbelievably stupid storyline.  The downside that life holds for optimists is that they are destined for disappointment, and at least from that perspective this flick did not disappoint.

The credits began to roll with intro cameos of the major characters, and I clung to hope, bad music, scary hair, but this could still be a surprisingly good movie. (Wrong—and by the way, if that’s what popular kids looked like in the 80s I’m afraid to see the nerds.)  And then the plot thickens.

A crazy science experiment-gone-wrong leaves Coleman Ettinger (Jason Robards), a grumpy old man, in Bobby Keller’s (Corey Feldman), the local high school punk’s body.  The transition takes place while Keller is unconscious.   

While Ettinger is living life as Keller, Keller is living in Ettinger’s dream.  Ettinger wants to get back to his own life—primarily his wife—but he can’t do so without Keller switching places with him.  Keller feels his life is falling apart, and I guess from a melodramatic teen perspective it probably is.  He’s in love with his best friend’s girlfriend, flunking all of his classes, his parents think he’s just something to be dealt with, and his chances of getting into college don’t seem good, so he refuses to switch places with Ettinger. I like the dream aspect. At least it’s not just another Freaky Friday.  But I kept waiting for something to happen, something that I could care about.  But it doesn’t.  And then it keeps going anyway.

Ettinger develops an understanding of what it’s like to be a kid in the 80s society, and Keller develops respect for Ettinger, who does what he can to improve Keller’s life while stuck in his movie. Lesson learned.  So it’s over, right?  Nope—unfortunately, the movie shows no signs of being over anytime soon.

Keller’s problems are exacerbated by the friend dating the girl he loves, a 1980s cliché if I’ve ever seen one (“Jessie’s Girl,” anyone?).  Of course, his friend is a psycho who should be in a mental institution.  Strangely, everyone thinks Keller is more trouble than his psycho buddy, even the girlfriend’s parents after psycho hits her!  But Keller isn’t the one chasing after people with guns.  Is it over yet?  Nope—still going.  

In the end (finally!), it’s but a dream—or in my case, a nightmare.  It’s like the Energizer Bunny—it just keeps going and going and going.  When it was over, I realized it had only been two hours.  It just felt like an eternity!

It’s a literal portrayal of the age old antic to truly understand a person you must walk a mile in their shoes.  But such portrayals seem to be a recurring part of our popular culture—and they seem to get worse every time!