Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on December 21, 1984
Directed by Amy Heckerling
Written by Harry Colomby, Jeff Harris, Bernie Kukoff, and Norman Steinberg
Cast: Michael Keaton, Joe Piscopo, Marilu Henner, Maureen Stapleton, Peter Boyle, Griffin Dunne, Glynnis O’Connor, Dom DeLuise, Richard Dimitri, Dick Butkus, Danny DeVito, Ron Carey, Ray Walston, Alan Hale Jr, Jack Nance, Carl Gottlieb, Vincent Schiavelli, Taylor Negron, Joe Flaherty, Bob Eubanks
I’ll be honest with you: the only reason I agreed to watch this movie, based on a friend’s recommendation, was because a favorite childhood actress of mine from the ’70s, Glynnis O’Connor, had a small part in it. I had a crush on her as the cute ‘girl next door’ in the TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, and loved her hot tan self in the beach drama California Dreaming, but lost track of her after that, and never knew she was in this particular outing until now.
Sadly, this review is not about the lovely Glynnis, but about the very homely Johnny Dangerously, a lame-brained spoof of Prohibition-era gangster movies whose potential was left on the scripted page, and whose attempt at emulating Airplane! and Police Squad! was about as misguided as it was unfortunate. Granted, it had its moments—Michael Keaton was fine as the title character, the thug lingo was fun, and unbelievably for me, Joe Piscopo was a hoot as rival gang member Danny Vermin—but overall this film was a serious disappointment.
Going into this, I was fully aware that it was meant to be comedic at some level, but I wasn’t prepared for the over-indulgence of slapstick, sight gags, eye-rolling one-liners, anachronisms, and flat-out silliness that was happily shoved down my throat at every opportunity. I also assumed Michael Keaton would be Michael Keaton, but unfortunately he was saddled with the play-it-safe screenplay of four writers, and material that couldn’t support or exploit his type of humor, which left him stranded in no-man’s land for most of the proceedings.
Perhaps the problem was with casting and line delivery (I found a long page of quotes from the film after I’d finished watching it, and they played out much better in print that on screen), or maybe the fault should lie with director Amy Heckerling, who’d had such success with Fast Times at Ridgemont High two years earlier, but here seemed unsure of what to do with the film’s tone and atmosphere, or how to handle the haphazardly-constructed script. However, I will say this for Johnny Dangerously: as far as 1984 gangster comedies go, it was much less of a chore to get though than City Heat. (4/10)