Psycho Beach Party Review

Mar 18, 2002 | 2:12pm EST

Surfers wipe out big time as hacked up body parts keep washing up in this kooky over-the-top spoof. Drag diva Charles Busch plays police Capt. Monica Stark hot on the trail of a serial killer. Her chief suspect is sweet Chicklet a plucky bobbysoxer who wants to surf with the beach boys. What psychosexual trauma in Chicklet's childhood subconscious is causing her personality to fracture into that of a toxic vixen?

Lauren Ambrose ("Can't Hardly Wait") comically pinballs from one goofball genre cliché to another as she plays the squeaky clean Chicklet and split personalities such as a black girl from the streets and a villainous femme fatale. In a droll nuanced performance Busch lampoons the tough-but sensitive woman cop with a secret past. Other cast members -- "Dharma and Greg's" Thomas Gibson as a rhyming hep cat Matt Keeslar as a sinister Swede -- revel in rampant parodies mock bad acting and faux innocence infused with a twisted gay sensibility.

Robert Lee King's adaptation of Busch's Off Broadway play is awash in kitsch giddy homoeroticism and bold colors. Not unlike John Waters' "Serial Mom" or a twisted take on "Pleasantville " this savvy satire of Americana features fun sequences of beefcake wrestling dance contests at a Hawaiian luau trashy shock-value gruesome appendages and cheesy special effects as sound stage surfers ride the waves before a filmed backdrop.

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