“When it’s the real thing, you’ll know it — as surely as if you’d been hit on the head with a sledgehammer!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
The mocking disdain shown when Gidget first attempts to enter the surfing clique’s hallowed turf rings all-too-true and painful; it’s especially disturbing to see “Lover Boy” (Tom Laughlin) being sexually aggressive with innocent young Gidget while purportedly teaching her how to surf (thankfully, she holds her own just fine).
Where the film falters a bit is in the casting of teen heartthrob James Darren as Moondoggie, the object of Gidget’s affections.
He’s such a pill that we can’t help wondering why she persists in her crush (though of course, the heart knows no reason, and I suppose he’s good-looking enough in his way). Much more interesting, however, is the relatively complex role played by Robertson, whose character “The Big Kahuna” possesses an intriguing history as a Korean War vet; one wishes his storyline were given a bit more emphasis.
Then again, this film really is all about Gidget herself — and Dee is appropriately winsome in this central role.
She’s reason enough to check out the film once; meanwhile, film fanatics may also be curious simply to see the prototype for all beach-bunny films made thereafter (most notably the Beach Party franchise starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon).
Note: Residents of Southern California will enjoy laughing themselves silly at the notion that Robertson could successfully set up and maintain a ramshackle home for himself right on the beach. Ha!
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: