Heavenly Bodies (1984)

“Heavenly bodies” (1984) was Canada’s answer to 1983’s “Flashdance.” Not that it’s a rip-off, because the stories are totally different. In “Heavenly Bodies” three women decide to start a fitness club that specializes in aerobic with intentions of eventually purchasing the building they lease. When the building is bought out from under them by a competing fitness center, the main protagonist, Samantha Blair (Cynthia Dale), issues a challenge — a dance-aerobics competition — with the building as the prize.

Some have lambasted “Heavenly Bodies” as the “worst film ever made,” “bad cinema” and “heavily campy,” but actually none of these criticisms are true. Films should be evaluated according to what they aspire to be and, consequently, no genre is beyond redemption or beneath contempt. “Heavenly Bodies” never aspired to be “Ghandi” or “Out of Africa.” It’s a sports film focusing on aerobics for cryin’ out loud. The question is: Does it deliver on that level? Yes, in spades.

What is required in a aerobics sports flick from 1984? Quality characters, heavenly bodies (sorry), energetic music, kinetic direction, a story that keeps your attention and a film that generally keeps your blood pumping, right? “Heavenly Bodies” scores well in all these areas. For instance, Cynthia Dale is a great protagonist for this type of flick; she’s cute, winsome, sprightly and insanely curvaceous. Although Jennifer Beals was fine in “Flashdance,” Cynthia easily surpasses her. And Cynthia is only one of the numerous shapely women featured throughout. There are guys too, of course, for those who care.

The criticisms that “Heavenly Bodies” is “bad cinema” and “heavily campy” are based solely on the fact that the film is from 1984 and involves aerobics. Aerobics was a fad that goes by different names today and the attire & hairstyles are naturally dated, which make the film an easy target for contempt. But this does not make it bad filmmaking or campy in the least. As far as “heavily campy” goes, there’s nothing artlessly mannered or self-consciously artificial in the story or performances; and there’s nothing remotely campy in the sense of, say, the 60’s “Batman” TV series. The story and actors play it straight throughout. Do these critics even know what ‘camp’ is?

The film runs a short-and-sweet 90 minutes and was shot in Toronto.

FINAL WORD: Don’t listen to those who rip on “Heavenly Bodies” as a bad, campy film. It’s at least as good as “Flashdance” and IMHO far better. Cynthia Dale is a great protagonist with a charming presence, a well-rounded perfect figure and excellent dance/gymnastic skills, not to mention the myriad of other ‘heavenly bodies’ throughout. It also has energetic (albeit dated) music, solid characters, limited dialogue, flashy directing and an entertaining story. What more could you ask for in a film of this ilk?