Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on August 15, 1984
Directed by W.D. Richter
Written by Earl Mac Rauch
Cast: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Lewis Smith, Rosalind Cash, Robert Ito, Pepe Serna, Clancy Brown, Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedaya, Bill Henderson, Billy Vera, John Ashton, Yakov Smirnoff, Damon Hines, Laura Harrington
If you’re going to make a sci-fi adventure comedy that boasts a demented storyline, characters and situations that are both eccentric and cool, hilariously off-kilter dialogue, a bunch of alien creatures named John, and an extremely awesome Ford jet car, then this is definitely the way to do it. However, I’ll be the first to admit that this wonderfully goofball film may not be for all tastes; its unfortunate failure at the box office could be blamed on many things, including a non-existent ad campaign and competition from summer blockbusters. But I say it deserved a better fate than that, and thanks to cable and home video, it has since built a solid cult following, especially with me.
Peter Weller stars as Buckaroo Banzai, a scientist, neurosurgeon, and rock star who drives through a mountain and inadvertently opens a portal to the 8th dimension, allowing evil Red Lectroids to escape and infiltrate Earth. From there, Buckaroo and his Team Banzai cohorts must join forces with the benevolent Black Lectroids to stop human-turned-alien Lord John Whorfin from leading an insurgence, and…well, now I’ve said too much. Or perhaps not enough. Either way, if you happen to possess even a fraction of the half-whacked sense of humor that fans of this film have, then I think it’s worth your time to check it out.
In fact, I missed it when it was first released (it was gone from my local cinema after playing there for what seemed like five minutes), and my first viewing was the result of a Beta rental from a neighborhood video store. My brother and I actually watched it twice before returning it the next day, and it wasn’t long before I went out and bought my own Beta copy. And trust me, it only got better with each viewing, as I spotted jokes and references I’d missed previously, and relived one-liners that soon become part of my own lexicon. Actually, when I re-watched it for this review, I counted 26 quotes and comments that, at the time, my brother and friend and I used whenever a situation allowed for it.
Besides the madcap dialogue, and a plot that defied description, I thought the film had a great look to it, too. First-time director W.D. Richter delivered quite a few artistic and nicely-composed widescreen shots, and he and screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch peppered the story, sets, and props with enough information—both necessary and throwaway—to warrant repeat viewings. The cast was loaded with recognizable faces who got into the spirit of their roles and acted with serious enthusiasm, and had a great time doing it; years ago I’d read that all the main actors had offered to do a sequel for free, simply because they’d had such a blast making this one.
If you’ve got the right mindset, there’s plenty of deliciously goofy fun to be had with Buckaroo Banzai, from the aliens and their self-imposed monikers (John Bigbooté, John Smallberries, John Ya Ya) to the interplay between the members of the various teams who assist Buckaroo (The Hong Kong Cavaliers, the Blue Blaze Irregulars, the Rug Suckers) and to the absurdist comments made by John Lithgow, whose deranged Lord Whorfin was just plain off the charts. For me, that great time translated splendidly to the screen, and with so much to like and appreciate, I can’t help but give this crazy film high marks for a job well done. And remember: no matter where you go, there you are. (9/10)