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 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. 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…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.
I’ll be the first to admit, however, that The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai may not be for all tastes. Its unfortunate failure at the box office—it was gone from my local cinema after playing there for what seemed like five minutes—could be blamed on many things, including a non-existent ad campaign, competition from summer blockbusters, and a plot that defied description. Banzai deserved a better fate than that, and thanks to cable and home video, it has since built a solid cult following. In fact, because I missed it when it played in theaters, my first viewing was the result of a Beta rental from a neighborhood video shop, and my brother and I actually watched it twice before returning it the next day, and immediately buying a copy of our own.
If you’ve got the right mindset, there’s plenty of deliciously goofy fun to be had, 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 Whorfin (Laugh while you can, monkey boy!). And it only gets better with each viewing, as you spot jokes and references you’d missed previously, and relive one-liners that soon become part of your own lexicon; when I re-watched Buckaroo Banzai for this review, I counted 26 quotes and comments that, at the time, my brother and friend and I would use whenever and wherever we had the opportunity. And now that I think about it, the three of us still reference a few of these one-liners today.
The film has a good look to it, too. I thought first-time director W.D. Richter handled his chores quite well, and delivered quite a few artistic and nicely-composed widescreen shots, while he and screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch peppered the story, sets, and props with enough information—both necessary and throwaway—to warrant repeated 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…especially John Lithgow, who was just plain off-the-charts as the deranged Whorfin.
Even the end credits were a delight—a nonsensical sequence that had the main cast members marching along a dry flood control canal to the beat of an oddly-compelling synth-pop instrumental—and provided a perfectly cheerful coda to it all. For me, that great time translated 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 just remember: no matter where you go, there you are. (8/10)