Eddie and the Cruisers II – Guilty Pleasure or Rotten Tomato?

I loved the 1983 film Eddie and the Cruisers, a movie that flashed back and forth through time while telling the legacy of a fictional 1960’s rock group and the adult lives of the survivors of youthful fame.

Recently I came across the sequel, aptly titled Eddie and the Cruisers: Eddie Lives. Given how much I enjoyed the original, I thought I’d give it a try despite a lot of reviews that panned it as a flop.

Eddie and the Cruisers II lacks the charm and ambiance of the original. However, it did have its own charm.

The 1989 follow up movie has a few things that play in its favor. John Cafferty again provides the singing voice of rocker Eddie Wilson, now 20 years later. Also returning in the sequel, Michael Paré as the onscreen Eddie does an excellent job lip syncing to Cafferty’s gristly vocals.

Paré is a very underrated actor whose credits include Streets of Fire and The Philadelphia Experiment. After seeing his performance in the original 1983 Eddie and the Cruisers, I could not even imagine another actor in the role. Part Jim Morrison but with a sound more reflective of Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp (particularly in his John Cougar days), the fictional Eddie Wilson embodies the ideal of the tormented rock star.

The original film was based on P.F. Kluge novel of the same name. Without a complete novel as it’s backbone, Eddie and the Cruisers II flounders at times searching for its creative soul. Unlike in the original, Paré is relegated to acting two emotions: angry or haunted.

The supporting cast of the original included acting greats Tom Berenger and Joe Pantoliano. Paré has no such stars to perform opposite in the sequel, making his character have to carry the whole film.

In the original film, the plot revolves around the lives of the Cruisers after the assumed death of leader Eddie Wilson. Eddie’s car ran off a bridge and the body was never recovered.

In the sequel, we find that Eddie indeed lived through the accident and has been living for the past 20 years under an assumed name working in construction to support himself outside the spotlight that he couldn’t handle anymore.

Under the name Joe West, Eddie is dragged back into the music scene by a passionate guitarist who recognizes Joe’s talent without any idea he is really the presumed dead Eddie Wilson.

The thing that saves the film is Cafferty’s passionate vocal style and Paré’s expert lip syncing. The rest of the story is kind of hit or miss. There are moments that really work well, and others that you just have to live with as not being on par with the original.

Even though Eddie Lives bombed at the box office, it has later achieved a cult status – and rightfully so. The good far outweighs the bad in this little guilty pleasure.

I give it a thumbs up.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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