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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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
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  • 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 was but has transportation) and Red Team (who knows where the finish line is but have their transportation destroyed), end up joining forces against their mutual enemies, the Green Team
  • 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: Harold.
  • 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.
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  • Game Master: Leon.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...

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