VH1 remembers one of the more contentious cultural battles of the 1980s — in mostly entertaining fashion — with its new telepic Warning: Parental Advisory.
A comedic take on the battle between the Tipper Gore's Parent's Music Research Council (PMRC) and record-industry lobbyists over "porn-rock" lyrics and warning labels, the film features strong performances by some well-known actors, and a real-life participant — former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider as himself.
Lobbyist Charlie Burner (Jason Priestley) is hired to help the recording industry get a tax on blank recording tape passed. Though a big music fan, he's not real passionate about his work — or anything else, aside from making partner by 35. That's offensive to colleague Pamela Stone (Deborah Yates), a Reaganite upset about getting pulled off missile defense and onto the "Tape Tax."
Meanwhile, at a cocktail reception across town, Senate wives gather at a ladies' room mirror. After being patronized by a female senator, they decide that they, too, can help save the world.
Led by a freshman senator's wife from Tennessee named Tipper Gore (Mariel Hemingway), they find a cause in the "offensive" lyrics Tipper heard on the Prince album Purple Rain. The "ladies who lunch" become the PMRC, and their effort to ban offensive lyrics crosses paths with the tape tax. Suddenly, Charlie finds his slam-dunk bill has become the center of national controversy.
In true Washington fashion, Charlie offers the PMRC a compromise — a warning label on records. That earns him another foe in rock icon Frank Zappa (Griffin Dunne).
Buoyed by their media success, Tipper and company convince their husbands to hold a Senate hearing. Charlie fights back with star power, enlisting Zappa, Snider and MOR superstar John Denver (Tim Guinee) — whose testimony turns the case around.
Director Mark Waters mostly avoids easy cliches. Except for some faux-documentary footage at the beginning, the story flows naturally, and he resists the temptation to make the PMRC members themselves look like fools. And for the most part, the film's not too self-righteous about rock 'n' roll.
Warning: Parental Advisory
is a cut above the typical based-on-a-true-story fare. The movie is probably VH1's strongest telepic to date.
The film bows Sunday, April 21, at 9 p.m. EDT.