Written by David Juskow, Directed by Memo Salazar
Format: Digital file
Notable Quote: Maxanne: “Why is Benjamin still just standing around? I told you, he should be playing like an instrument or something.” Ric: “He says he doesn’t want to… in case he gets the motivation to dance.”
My quick 2 cents: This frisky parody rockumentary is full of playful humor and witty references that will hit home with Cars fans and lovers of 80s culture. Watch it!
The full scoop: Rock biopics definitely follow a predictable formula: play it fast and loose with the timeline, pit the downtrodden but uber-talented star against an antagonist saying, ‘there is NO way you’re going to be a success,’ and then finish with a top-of-the-charts victory proving everyone wrong and taking the airwaves by storm. And that’s the way the genre goes, right?
Wrong. At least, not when it comes to Turbocharge: The Unauthorized Story of The Cars.
Created more as an act of rebellion, New York comedian, writer, and filmmaker David Juskow was fed up with the stereotypical rock biopic. One night in 2005, after nearly gagging on the cheesy dialog and overbearing drama in Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story, he had had enough. It was the final push he needed to pursue his own project.
“I made Turbocharge out of spite, let’s just say that. It is completely spoofing the genre of any biopic that’s been made of a music band. That is exactly what it is,” Juskow says with finality.
Inducted into the 2018 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Cars broke into the fairly stagnant music scene of 1978, pulling listeners up short with their captivating combination of punchy guitar solos, innovative synthesizers, and sardonic lyric writing. Over the next ten years they were forerunners of the evolving ‘new wave’ craze while maintaining their foothold in rock and roll. As a whole, they were a low key and private band, holding the media at arms’ length and creating an air of mystery about their deeper identity. Did they have a story to tell? Juskow believed they did.
Exaggerated personalities, terrible wigs, and an unorthodox plot make this hilarious film the breath of fresh air the genre needs. Narrated by a snowman a la Rankin/Bass, the story revolves around The Cars reputation for being robotic and boring during live shows, and their supposed determination to correct that perception with the fans. Running alongside that thread is the assertion that bassist Ben Orr was secretly plotting to wrest the control of the group from co-founder and songwriter Ric Ocasek. In an unexpected twist, Phil Collins is delightfully in the middle of it all.
The idea for Turbocharge actually materialized in the mid-80s during Juskow’s college days when the band’s fourth album, Heartbeat City, took his ears by storm and he became obsessed with everything they did. Lightning hit in the summer of 1985, when The Cars performance on the Live Aid broadcast was hijacked by Phil Collins’ arrival. Juskow recalls, “Being a huge fan of The Cars at that time I was so angry that they got shafted that it turned to comedy in my mind. I was like, ‘Someday I’m going to depict that!’”
Two decades later, the time had come. The 20th anniversary of Live Aid in 2005 unearthed Juskow’s earlier grudge over the Phil Collins fiasco, and that, coupled with his disgust over the Def Leppard movie, prompted him to approach his good friend, television industry veteran Memo Salazar. Memo was in, and Juskow spent the next several months researching The Cars’ history, confirming things he already knew and then going deeper.
And the further he dug, the funnier it became. The peculiarity of Ric and Ben’s early partnership, The Cars ‘trashing’ a hotel by leaving pictures askew, the perceived disaster of the Panorama album… it was the oddities in the band’s journey that propelled everything forward with the movie. Juskow does take an obvious amount of creative license, but there’s a difference: Juskow’s forays into embellishment are not designed to evoke emotion with the cookie-cutter ‘climb to fame’ struggles of the typical rockumentary… they’re just damn funny.
“Everybody takes liberties for drama purposes,” Juskow explains. “What would you have if you didn’t have a fun antagonist? C’mon, you need someone to get mad about Andy Warhol: ‘You hired this guy? Are you kidding me?’”
The cast is largely made up from Juskow’s comedy family and ‘friends of friends,’ including Kevin Kash, Rachel Feinstein, Jonathan Katz, H John Benjamin, John Samuel Jordan, David Engel, Tom Shillue, and Dave Attell. Juskow himself plays Ric Ocasek. The soundtrack includes music from Eric Barao, The Cautions, Frank Stallone, and a couple of Cars-flavored tunes written by Juskow himself.
The film originally opened in 2008 with a few private screenings in the New York area, but then sat on a shelf for ten years, until longtime Cars fan David Curry convinced Juskow to dust it off and reconsider releasing it to the rest of the world. Lucky for us! It is now available for a limited time on Amazon Prime: click HERE!