Midway through Lethal Weapon 2, there’s a scene where Detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) brings Rika van den Haas (Patsy Kensit) to his beachside trailer for a date, even though she’s the secretary of an evil apartheid-era South African government official that’s determined to kill him along with much of the LAPD. Before long, he’ll be fishing her lifeless body out of the ocean and vowing to avenge her death, but prior to that unpleasantness they enjoy a few beers and listen to the new Beach Boys song “Still Cruisin'” on the radio.
That may seem like an odd selection for the soundtrack of a big-budget action flick targeting a young demographic, but the movie came out during a brief window of time when Hollywood studios turned to veteran artists to sell albums and promote their films. It began in 1983, when The Big Chill brought nostalgic boomers to multiplexes and record shops to relive their youth with oldies like “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” “My Girl,” and “Joy to the World.”
But it hit a whole new level in 1987, when the Dirty Dancing soundtrack spent an incredible 18 weeks at Number One and revived the careers of Ronnie Spector, Righteous Brother Bill Medley, and Raspberries frontman Eric Carmen. Two of the biggest hits — “Hungry Eyes” and (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” — were brand-new songs, even though they were recorded by acts that hadn’t seen the top of the charts in well over a decade.
The producers of the 1988 Tom Cruise movie Cocktail were clearly taking note, since they recruited the Beach Boys to contribute a theme song for the movie. The band hadn’t had a Top 10 single since their cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” in 1976, but the film was a huge success, and it helped bring “Kokomo” to Number One. The video doubled as a free commercial for Cocktail, and it went into heavy rotation on VH1. It was a huge win for everyone involved.
The Lethal Weapon 2 team wanted some of that Cocktail magic the next summer, and “Still Cruisin'” seemed like a nice selection. Written by Mike Love and Byrds producer Terry Melcher (who also had a credit on “Kokomo”), the song is about the longevity of the Beach Boys, but it also somewhat applies to Lethal Weapon — since the two police officers are “Still Cruisin'” even though Danny Glover’s character claimed to be weeks away from retirement in the first movie.
Lethal Weapon 2 was an enormous hit (and truly the best movie of the franchise), but it didn’t help “Still Cruisin'” hit any higher than Number 93 on the Hot 100. That’s a huge comedown from “Kokomo,” though it’s the Beach Boys’ last single to land anywhere on the charts. Check out the original video right here.
“Still Cruisin'” may not be the greatest song in the Beach Boys catalog, but it’s practically “God Only Knows” when compared with “Problem Child” from the soundtrack of the 1990 movie of the same name. That song may be the nadir of the Beach Boys’ entire recording career, and the instrumental rendition of it from the B side is definitely the least-essential piece of music they’ve ever released.
There’s been talk for years of a Lethal Weapon 5. It would be ludicrous if Danny Glover’s character is still on the police force even though he’s now in his mid-seventies and was actively plotting his retirement in 1987, but they’ll probably find a way to make it work. And if they want a new Beach Boys song for the soundtrack, Mike Love will probably be happy to oblige. He’s been cruisin’ for another “Kokomo” ever since 1988, and he’ll probably never stop.