Those with a taste for cliche's will flip for "Heavenly Bodies," a movie so irredeemably sleazy and aggressively stupid it's actually fun. Full of aerobics and disrobe-ics, "Heavenly Bodies" asks not "Can you touch your toes?" but "How low can you stoop?"
Bored with the ol' 9-to-5, Samantha (Cynthia Dale) organizes her chums from the typing pool and opens an exercise studio called Heavenly Bodies, where their war-whooping girlish enthusiasm leads to immediate success. Sam is hired to whip the local football team into shape, thus meeting the hunky Pozniak (the stonily morose Richard Rebiere), whom she humbles in a push-up contest. Triumphing likewise in an audition to host a morning workout TV show, she comes into conflict with Debbie (Laura Henry), the straw boss over at the Jack Pearson Fitness Center.
But what really sprains Debbie's sensibilities is that her boyfriend, said Pearson (George Walter Alton), has fallen for Sam, too -- in a scene of virtuoso High Kink, this boob makes love to her while he watches Sam on the tube. So Debbie arranges for the warehouse leased by Heavenly Bodies to be bought out from under them. On the air the next day, Sam challenges the Pearson Center to an aerobics marathon, with the warehouse to go to the winner.
"Heavenly Bodies" is a triumph of market research ("Flashdance Rocky Does the Jane Fonda Workout"), and director Laurence Dane, who wrote the script along with Toronto Star film critic Ron Base, has an unerring feel for the obviously cute. His characters go gram-crackers: Pozniak sends Sam a "Gorilla-gram"; she responds with a "Strip-o-gram"; he comes back with a "Balloon-o-gram." He cooks dinner for her; she says, "Let's go back to your place and get some exercise."
Since "Heavenly Bodies" depends on its appeal to voyeurs, it's important that Dale make you resent her leotard, a task at which she succeeds thoroughly. But although this is her first movie, she also has a charming ease in front of the camera. With her open gaze, dimply smile and coquettish laugh, Dale's like a Natalie Wood character who's triumphed over her neuroses. And Alton's a howl as the smarmy Pearson -- with his varnished hair and phony lady-killer smile, he's the dark side of the Vitalis Man.
Most of "Heavenly Bodies" is indistinguishable from a workout video, with the girls jumping up and down and Sam screaming "Tight buns!" and the indifferent rock and synth-pop score wailing along. (One song proclaims, "I'm losing control"; another advises, "She's out of control.") On the story's odd sorties out of the exercise studio, it focuses on the strains put on the Sam/Pozniak romance by Sam's career. "The marketing people want to build a company around me," she tells him. Funny, those marketing guys.