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Film / Midnight Madness

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Midnight Madness is a 1980 film from Walt Disney Pictures, featuring an all-night scavenger-hunt-type game put on by a nerdy mastermind named Leon. In this game, five teams of various stereotypical groups race around the Los Angeles area searching for hidden clues that will ultimately lead them to the final destination and victory. Originally released without the Disney brand and with a dismal box-office run in theaters, the film became a Cult Classic after it hit the pay-cable-channel circuit. It is most notable for: starring David Naughton, who at the time was best known for dancing around in Dr Pepper commercials; being Michael J. Fox's first big-screen role; and having a brief appearance by a pre-Pee Wee Herman Paul Reubens.

These tropes are cleverly hidden (and not-so-cleverly hidden) in the film:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Blaylak takes a swim in one of the brewery's beer vats.
  • And Starring: Stephen Furst.
  • Artistic License – Cars: Marvin's truck is refered to throughout the film as a Jeep, even though it's a Toyota Land Cruiser with the name TOYOTA even prominantly displayed on the grille.
  • Big Eater/Jabba Table Manners: Harold, especially at the end of the film.
  • The Big Race
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The winning team gets a trophy but, as Leon says, more importantly a chance to prove to the other teams that their team is better.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Once the Red and White teams are kicked out of the hotel and not to be allowed back in, Wesley crosses his arms and pouts before peering around a corner and finding the employee entrance. He then looks right at the camera with a delighted smile.
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  • Buccaneer Broadcaster: The AM frequency for LAX airport information is at one point taken over by Leon to provide the next clue.
  • Cool Car: The Blue team's van. Turbocharged engine, supercomputer and flames on a blue paint job.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The groups put on shirts with matching colors, and by some Contrived Coincidence, the vehicles' colors even matched.
  • Developers' Foresight: In-Universe, Leon. Especially if you try to cheat.
  • Dirty Kid: A young boy uses the Griffith Park Observatory telescope to get a look at "Venus' two moons" (in a bedroom window).
  • Dumb Muscle: The green team.
  • Elevator Failure: Near the end, the yellow team is stuck in an elevator.
  • Enemy Mine: The White Team (who was prevented from finding out where the finish line is but has transportation) and Red Team (who knows where the finish line is but their transportation was destroyed), end up joining forces against their mutual enemies, the Green Team
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  • Epic Race: One that takes all night to finish.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Happens a lot. Most notable when the Green Team stumbles upon the next clue at the music shop, and Blaylack recognizes the notes as the jingle for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
  • Fat Bastard: Blue Team leader Harold is a grouchy Big Eater who can barely go ten minutes without cheating.
  • Fiery Redhead: Berle from the Red Team is a red-haired young woman who is very fiery and outspoken about her dislike for the jocks on the Green Team.
  • 555: Subverted. Harold's phone number, given to a police officer by one of his teammates, is 347-1347.
  • Forgotten Birthday: It's Scott's birthday tonight... and Adam's too caught up in the game to remember.
  • Game Master: Leon.
  • Gilligan Cut: Following a fight at Pinball City that results in the White team not being to get the clue due to the machine it was in getting destroyed and the Red team's truck being accidentally destroyed, the leaders of both teams are shouting at each other when one of the members of the White team suggest that the teams come to an agreement. Both leaders shout "NEVER!!!" at each other. The very next shot has both teams commuting to the finish line on the White team's mopeds.
  • Hidden Depths: At least two members of the Dumb Jock Green Team can read music and play the piano. And one of them is Blaylack, believe it or not.
  • Hufflepuff House: While the White Team gets just as much screen time as the others, its members are a lot less fleshed out and distinct than their competitors. Only one of them gets a name, while every member of the other four teams is named.
  • Idiot Ball: Every team at some point, but a particularly bad one when the joint White/Red teams decide to drive the White team's mopeds around the lobby of a hotel for no apparent reason, causing them to get thrown out.
  • Jerkass: Harold and the rest of the blue team.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Scott's a bit of a troublemaker at times, but only because he wants attention from his brother, and he's (rightfully) angry that he forgot his birthday. Otherwise he's a good kid.
  • Lovable Nerd: Leon. His neighbors bang on his door to complain about the noise; next thing they know, they're helping him run the game.
  • MacGyvering: How Marvin on the yellow team manages to get an elevator running again.
  • Male Gaze: At one point, this is needed to get the next clue to the next destination. Look between the two giant melons!
  • Nerd Glasses: Leon and the white team.
  • No More for Me: Blaylack is a hard-drinkin' man even by the standards of the hulking party animals of the Green Team, but a swim in the Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery tanks is apparently enough for one night even for him.
  • Only Sane Man: Picture this, Pee-Wee Herman dressed in a ridiculous cowboy costume, trying to calmly and rationally talk down the teams from tearing each other (and Pinball City) apart.
  • Product Placement: Some brands are crucial to the game, so this trope definitely comes into play. The game eventually leads to the Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery, Bob's... sorry, Johnny's Big Boy and the Bonaventure Hotel. An actual arcade game (Exidy's Star Fire) provides a clue as well.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World for teens in The '80s.
  • Red Herring: At the miniature golf course, Harold decides to skip the entire course and head straight for the 18th hole. When he sinks the ball, a flag pops up with a note on it, saying he shouldn't have cheated... and he lost his ball.
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Secretly Wealthy: Arguably Leon. He dresses like a bohemian and stays in a half-decent apartment, yet he manages to curry the favor of a piano store, a chain restaurant, a pinball arcade, a miniature golf course, a major brand brewery, a major airport and a posh hotel to go along with his all-nighter game. Which means he'd have to shell out some serious dough to keep these places operational in the middle of the night, not to mention hire a few personnel and buy some wonderful prizes for the winners.
    • Debatable. Take for instance Leon's neighbors, who after learning about the game, become very enthusiastic about it. Possibly the same happened to everyone who helped to setup the game. Also, there were no wonderful prizes. Leon states that there is only a trophy and bragging rights for the winning team.
  • Slower Than a Snail: After the Blue Team sabotage their car, Adam and Flynch attempt to hitchhike to the mini putt course. The first people to pick them up are an elderly couple in a '57 Chevy sedan that is literally moving at a crawl.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: The clues that are given vary from playing a commercial jingle on a toy piano, to rearranging letters found on a necklace, to forming a business name from a bunch of objects, to beating a high score on a video game.
  • El Spanish "-o": Harold uses this with the maid at his house after intentionally making a mess while ordering her to clean it up.
  • The Stoic: Blades. His expression never changes from an intimidating scowl except for one point when he smiles after watching Harold shove a pie in Lucille's face, causing her to fall backwards into a pool after she chastises him for breaking his diet for the umpteenth time, only to catch himself and go back to the scowl.
  • Troll: Melio loves to get Harold in trouble with his girlfriend Lucille for cheating on his diet for no other reason than to watch the chaos and bickering.
  • The Voiceless: Blue Team member Blade has no dialogue and only communicates by shaking his head or giving the odd Death Glare.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Adam is an all around good guy, but he treats his brother like crap and the rest of the team let him know it.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: It's not Bob's Big Boy, it's Johnny's Fat Boy!
    • This could've been averted, as the clue given could have been "Mr. Barker's Obese Male Child". But the management behind Bob's Big Boy must've gotten a bit antsy...