Theme Song: The Zoo Gang contains several original songs, but an official soundtrack album was never released because all of them are almost completely unremarkable. That doesn’t mean they’re terrible; just somewhat indistinguishable from the bounty of much better, semi-motivational, AOR-pandering, movie songs from the 80s.
“Gonna Be A Party” by The Prescription. Hey, do you want to have party to the core? Then you should hang out with The Prescription. I can’t find out any information on The Prescription, probably because they were just a few studio musicians trying to earn a royalty check on the side. That or they fucking partied themselves into oblivion.
“Get In While You Can” by Gary O’Connor, which accompanies a climactic face-off scene. Gary was probably shooting for something triumphant ala Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need A Hero,” but all he was able to come up with was some 3rd generation EVH hot licks being sprayed all over a shitty chorus.
“Going Down Fighting” by Matthew Wilder. The filmmakers clearly overcommitted the soundtrack to way too many musicians, so they started fading in and fading out songs right over dialogue scenes, despite the songs have nothing to do with the narrative. For example they fade this song in and out over someone farting in a crowded car.
“You Know What I Like” by Robbie Nevil (better known as Robbie Neville). You may or may not remember Neville from his 1986 hit, “C’Est la Vie,” which my mom liked so much she bought like 2 different sweatshirts and a refrigerator magnet that said, “C’Est la Vie,” on them, even though they weren’t directly affiliated with the song.
The Zoo Gang takes place inside a rundown rock club. The house band, given an on-screen name of “The Clap,” had three songs in the movie (attributed to Living Dolls in the credits). Again, can’t find anything about them, but here’s some audio from two of their performances: “Nervous” and “Brink of Disaster”. Living Dolls must have been a real band because the songs have had some effort put into them.
“On Our Own” by Steel Breeze. Do you like to be hard and fast on your own? Then you might like to hang with Steel Breeze. According to my mom, Steel Breeze had a hit song in the early 80s called “You Don’t Want Me Anymore”, which she really liked. They churned out Kim Fowley-produced 80s AOR jams and were popular in California because everyone was blown the fuck out of their brains on cocaine and ‘ludes. The filmmakers liked this song so much they played it twice in the movie, which is a fucking nightmare to sit through. For the record, Steel Breeze is still together and you can book them for your next corporate event, although I don’t think there are any original members left in the band. I don’t know, maybe it’s a totally different band.
Interesting Dated References: Children running around urban areas of a city without having parents incessantly hovering over their every action; Children befriending and getting into business dealings with homeless alcoholic guys whom also happen to be former wrestlers; Royal Crown Cola paying to have their product featured prominently in a film.
Best Line: “If my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle.” The Zoo Gang is filled with language that skirts the line between R-rated and PG. There was a time in the 80s (post-Bad News Bears) when movies aimed at kids could have swears, smoking and drinking, all of which happens many times in The Zoo Gang. Kids could even call each other “faggot” (3 times in The Zoo Gang) and nobody would bat an eye. For the record, this movie is PG-13.
Social Context: At one point things devolve into a 75 minute section dealing with squatter’s rights versus landowner rights versus city property taxation and annexation. It’s as if the writer had some agenda regarding his shitty apartment and buried it in a script about kids owning a “rock club.”
Summary: During the opening song, the following is established: A gang of loveable misfit kids/teens – whose parents don’t care about them – decide to open their own dance club, named “The Zoo.” They’ve negotiated with an old drunk (Ben Vereen) to take over his shuttered club, going so far as to get capacity/fire permits from the fire marshall. The word of mouth promotion among the children of this pre-internet town is insane, because everyone shows up at the concert on opening night. All of this happens during the first 3 minutes.
Then Jackie Earle Haley (clearly not a kid/teen) and his giant blonde wig show up to harass the kids. Jackie Earle and his two brothers are the biggest threat to children in the town, and are collectively called, “The Donnely Brothers.” There are no other gangs or dilemmas (drugs, crime, etc.) addressed in this movie, just the scourge that is The Donnely Brothers. They have denim and leather jackets, live in a junkyard, have a dad who is a fat-cat businessman, think it’s possible to meet hot chicks in the graveyard, and sport switchblades.
So for like 30 minutes the Donnely gang tries to start fights with the The Zoo Gang-gang, and vice versa. This includes a scene where Skippy (Marc Price) from Family Ties cross-dresses in order to seduce one of The Donnely Brothers. If you happen to have some type of Family Ties fanfiction fetish thing going on, then the above image is probably extremely gratifying for you. Apparently the Donnelys want to gain control of the lucrative Zoo club so they can bathe in all the money the club is raking in through selling RC Cola and letting kids smoke.
After much slapstick fighting, children talking about sex, and the Donnelys gaining control of The Zoo, the kids/teens realize they can regain control of the club through a landowner/squatters rights loophole. Apparently if the kids trick the Donnelys into leaving the property to run errands, they can push their RV into the parking lot and be legally recognized as owners of the The Zoo and thereby splash in the RC Cola cash fountain. The entire sequence of events involving the kids pushing the RV into the lot goes on for 65 minutes.
Eventually with the help of their homeless alcoholic mascot, who is also a former wrestler, the kids regain control of The Zoo and chase The Donnely Brothers out of town. The final scene shows all the kids jamming out in the newly-reopened Zoo. As per guidelines, the movie ends with a freeze frame.
– If you’re going to make a movie in the mid-80s that features a group of more than 10 children congregating, then at least one of them has to be on a fucking unicycle.
– The Zoo Gang has some very detailed mid-80s era interior bedroom shots. Enjoy them:
– The inside of The Zoo is covered in 80s era band/concert posters (Talking Heads, Men Without Hats, etc.).
– Ben Vereen literally looks like he’s dying throughout this entire movie. Granted he’s supposed to be playing a washed-up former wrestler/alcoholic, but he actually looks like he’s seriously ill. Considering he’s still alive, we’ll call it good acting.
– The Zoo Gang has two directors and four writers. Never a good sign.
– Bobby Jacoby plays one of the Zoo Gang kids and smokes approximately 30 cigarettes on screen.
– Jason Gedrick (Iron Eagle, HBO’s Luck) plays the sexy drifter kid from out of town who helps the Zoo Gang defeat those pesky Donnely Brothers.
Poster and Box Art: The US Poster is a nice illustration featuring a good type treatment that also gets used in the opening credits. The box art is not very exciting. It’s designed to make you think some kids will overcome something, so technically it’s not being dishonest but I am lazy and did not upload it.
Availability: Used VHS.