This review was corrected on June 18, 2000.
Milli Vanilli may have grabbed lip-synch headlines in the late 1980s, but the story of Martha Wash and her work for the C&C Music Factory and Black Box, in which photogenic young women appeared in the photographs and videos while the uncredited heavy-set woman belted out the tunes, seems to hold more dramatic weight a decade after the fact. VH1 tackles a Wash-like saga in its first top-to-bottom fictional telepic, “Out of Sync,” a joke-free “music-filled comedy” that mindlessly romps through the cliches of soap operas, the record industry and network movies of the week.
Despite a watchable perf from Gail O’Grady (“NYPD Blue”) as the mom who agrees to record some demos on a whim and then discovers her singing being billed as that of an artist known as Sunni (Kari Wuhrer), “Out of Sync” is an apt description of this goopy melodrama. Richard Schenkman’s script is flaccid at every turn as we watch uninspired actors play uninspiring parts. Helmer Graeme Campbell starts the telepic with some blazingly quick edits that gave the first minute or so a “Real World” glaze, but he then drops the process and opts for a matter-of-fact storytelling style and pace.
Roger Deacon (a well-intentioned portrayal from Peter Outerbridge) is a spent record producer down to his last dime trying to salvage a career he threw away on drugs and drinking. His pot-smoking engineer Buddo (Jerry Ciccoritti) is the Cheech to his Chong as they muddle through singer after singer. Record mogul Sidney Golden (a stiff Harvey Atkin) offers Deacon a return to the bigtime with Sunni, a permanently off-key singer whose talents appear limited to the bedroom. Deacon and Sunni immediately hit it off on the sex front (natch), which leads Deacon to working out ways to hide her lack of talent.
Meanwhile, Maggie Stanley is battling with her husband Stan (Jonathan Whitaker) about returning to college to study music now that her daughter is in school and son Josh (Ryan Dennis) fills his time with his garage band. Husband puts up a fight and before you know, circumstance finds her drunk in a bar singing “Rainy Days and Mondays” and Deacon has found “the voice.”
Label interest in Stanley is non-existent — they want a Sunni record. Sunni consistently overrates her own talent and she honestly believes the playbacks are of her singing, not Stanley, whose family is smitten with the sex-kitten songstress.
Sunni demands a “Wireless” appearance, which we eventually learn is an “Unplugged”-like show that would force her to perform live. Sabotage leads to a happily-ever-after ending.
Wuhrer, the former MTV veejay who has become actress most likely to be nude in a straight-to-video pic, is an annoying bimbo with a constant jiggle. Camera takes careful aim to maximize body shots over any dramatic connection the character may make with the story. Rest of the acting is perfunctory. Music is catchy at times.