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I've read several comments by people under the age of 30 who trash on this
film, call it crap, and characterize us fans as vapid, thorazine-addled
retards. Whatever makes you happy, folks! If trashing on a film that was
seminal in the annals of low-budget cinematic resourcefulness makes you
special then I'm happy for you.
There is a reason we love this film. The script is clever, a veritable mosaic of silly twists and throwaway jokes so layered that it takes multiple viewings to keep up with it all (favorite line: "It's not my ******* planet, Monkey Boy!"). And the direction and approach is equally exciting: rather than annoy us with underfinanced special effects that pretend to be Lucasfilm quality, the director revels in his low budget, using conk shells as models for space ships and populating alien ship interiors with tubes, pipes, rods and duct tape. The aliens come off as resourceful-albeit-goofy packrats, bumbling about and managing to stay just a few steps ahead of Buckaroo until the very end.
For many of us over 30, this film was something special. We caught it at midnight movie houses and relished in the warm presence of a movie made by people who shared our dark, twisted senses of humor. In college, it was a regular rental; we held Bonzai parties, dressed as characters, turned it into our private video Rocky Horror. No, it's not Citizen Kane ... but what do you want from a movie called Buckaroo Bonzai?
What a great way to start the New Year! I just watched this flick for the
first time in ages and remember now why I agree that it is a "cult
Made in 1984 way before most of the actors achieved real star status, this movie has so many "inside" references and jokes, it's a wonder that more isn't made of it! And if you are a real Star Trek fan, you will know that Yoyodyne Propulsion is on the commissioning plaque for the Enterprise as well as other Star Fleet vessels. The references to Grover's Mill and Orson Wells along with the whole deadpan tone of the film makes this an unbelievably funny experience. I only wish that "Buckaroo Banzai versus The World Crime League" had been produced.
Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Dan Hedaya, the entire cast must have had a great time making this movie. It is full of technojargon, double speak and just plain funny stuff that pokes fun at every bad B-movie scifi thriller/comic book/Saturday serial ever made. There is no bad language and no skin and lots to hear and see in this great movie!
It has one redeeming quality above all else for me... it makes the effects on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and all of those other poor excuses for Saturday kid's entertainment look ridiculous. If the producers of this crap on TV that passes for action need some pointers on how to take useless stuff and make a cool, funny scifi flick, they need look no further that "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eight Dimension"!
TAOBBATED, as I will acronymize this film, is neither the stupid
piece of excrement nor the sublimely original cult masterpiece you've been
told it is, but it's a lot closer to the latter than to the former. Peter
Weller plays Buckaroo, the titular neurosurgeon/inventor/modern-day
samurai/Billy Joelesque rocker, and he plays him frightfully well, low-key
and distant but with occasional glimmers of genius and intensity. The
stellar supporting cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Clancy Brown, John
Christopher Lloyd, and Ellen Barkin, and they're all pretty darn
I'm not even going to pretend to be rational or unbiased about this movie. It's too utterly offbeat and original and just damned _odd_ to not love. Some favorite scenes: the opening sequence of the Jet Car test run; Buckaroo's phone call with the Black Lectroids, and his subsequent detection of the sinister Red Lectroid agents in his midst; the eerie recorded message from the Black Lectroid leader, the "good guys" who threaten to blow up Earth unless Buckaroo stops their enemy, Dr. Lizardo (Lithgow, in a truly twisted scene-chewing performance). Yes, it looks cheesy and dated, but damn it, you have to take a stand somewhere in life, you have to roll up your sleeves and step up to the plate and put yourself on the line, and have the courage to say, "I don't care what anyone thinks of me, I love this movie." That's the way I feel about old Buckaroo and his Hong Kong Cavaliers, and I still consider myself a loyal Blue Blaze Irregular fifteen years after seeing this film.
As a post-script, I'd like to mention that the novelization of this movie, written by Earl Mac Rauch, is great, and actually contains about 3 times the information and plot that is in the movie. If you can find it on Amazon or at a garage sale somewhere, snap it up, it's worth the search. Also, there's a script for BUCKAROO BANZAI VERSUS THE WORLD CRIME LEAGUE floating around too, which should be made no matter the cost if only to film one priceless scene - the cameo appearance of Jack Burton, Kurt Russell's swaggering truck driver hero from John Carpenter's BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, who appears as a Blue Blaze Irregular and gives Team Banzai a lift!
This is the most bizarre movie I've ever seen - and it is one of my absolute favorites. The jokes are deeply embedded, and you have to pay close attention. The super-car that breaks sound (and dimensional) barriers idles when the ignition is turned off... the test code for the oscillation overthruster jet car is a spelling variation of "signed, sealed, delivered"... The high-tech, alien-technology visi-glasses are made of pink bubble wrap...amidst the deafening screams of fans and the jazz playing horn section of the Hong Kong Cavaliers, Buckaroo hears one single person crying.... It's these bizarre little jokes are that make the movie great, but they are not every one's cup of tea. It's good to have a very strange sense of humor - otherwise, you just won't understand why it's funny when... well, you just won't get why the movie is funny at all!
W.D Richter's Buckaroo Banzai succeeds on many levels, thanks to a wonderfully droll sensibility and inspired casting. Peter Weller lends a perfect, dead-pan seriousness to the very 'out there' proceedings, while John Lithgow chews up the scenery as the fiendish Dr. Lizardo. Ellen Barkin is particularly fetching as Penny Priddy, while Jeff Goldblum stakes out his turf with an engaging feverishness that is all his own. Christopher Lloyd takes a relatively low-key approach to his role and does well for it, allowing for Lithgow's extravagance. Welding the pieces together is a delirious, kinetic script by Earl M. Rauch.The film, although essentially a spoof of science fiction films and comic book superheroes, remains a delightful, inventive enigma of eighties cinema. The look of the picture is quite good, and (considering it's meager budget) highly-digestible. Given that the film never found a mass audience, it is surprising that so many individuals seem to remember it as vividly, and as fondly as they do. I can only hope that after everyone has gotten their fill of a certain "galaxy far, far away", that a return to the more substantial basics of storytelling and characterization is deemed imperative. Meanwhile sit back, relax, and laugh yourself silly with a charming, 'little' film that tends to be so much more.
This is a fun film. It doesn't take itself seriously and neither should
The plot centres around a pre-Robocop Peter Weller's character (the implausibly named Buckaroo Banzai) who is a scientist/rock musician/surgeon...seems to be talented at just about everything. In his lab he perfects a device for travelling through solid matter on the pretext that 'solid matter' is in fact 80% empty space. True enough and so far so good.
In the movie, the 80% of matter that is space turns out to be the 8th dimention, and Banzai unwittingly causes some nasty alien "lectoids" to enter our dimension. With the help of good lectoids he and his rock band have to save the day.
John Lithgow really steals the show with some excellent madcap lines. The big name actors clearly knew this was not to be taken seriously and though the plot is OK it is the one-liners in the script that make the movie so enjoyable. Special FX are early 80's par for the course, this is not the highest budget film ever! The only question is why didn't the advertised sequal ever make it to the screen?
If you like The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or Red Dwarf, chances
are you'll enjoy Buckaroo Bonzai. It is full of subtle/dry humor and
has an overall upbeat mood. The subtly dry humor is found in the
background audio as well as the odds and ends that find their way into
the set decor and dialog. These offer a nice array of silliness to
punctuate the story with their own unique twists of humor.
The cast is definitely All Star! Peter Weller (Robocop), John Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun), Robert Ito (Quincy MD), Clancy Brown (Highlander), Ellen Barkin (Wild Bill), and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) all have fun and amusing roles. Even the minor roles are covered well by perhaps lesser known yet veteran cast members such as Rosalind Cash and Matt Clark.
If you're a fan of British humor, you should definitely enjoy this one, even though it may take more than one viewing to catch all the subtleties. If you haven't been exposed to this style of humor, this certainly isn't a bad place to start! If, on the other hand, this style of humor is not what you enjoy, it may not be the one for you. For everyone else, kick back and enjoy! If it weren't a bit of a cult classic, I doubt it would be available on DVD. I give it a 7 out of 10 since it may not be for everyone. Personally, I rate it a notch higher.
"So what? Big deal."- A Lectroid commander in THE ADVENTURES OF
Greetings honorary members of the Hong Kong Cavaliers and to all you neutral observers and detractors as well. Hoping to clarify the mystery and purpose of this 1984 docudrama, I have scoured all available data (including movie reviews), scrutinized the musings of the film's director via the DVD's special features, and held extensive conferences with official representatives of the Banzai Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Strategic Information. I hasten to point out that my findings are inconclusive and that many questions remain.
The film is (negatively) a rambling, disjointed pastiche of pseudo-hip, sci-fi/comic book inspired shenanigans that (positively) manages to generate inordinate amounts of charm and wonder through its fortuitous collusion of eccentric story line (battling aliens; a deeply depressed damsel-in-distress, (Penny Priddy); the actual Hong Kong Cavaliers honing their rock and roll chops; Buckaroo himself, pushing his new jet car- with the incredible Oscillation Overthruster -through the forbidding regions of the 8th dimension) and the glowing charisma of the actors at play: John Lithgow's Dr. Lizardo is hilarious and ingenious. W.D. Richter's nerdy persona obscures his inability to fashion Earl Mac Rauch's free-wheeling screenplay into a coherent whole. Still, the many facets of the story remain intriguing and Michael Boddicker's synthesized music is majestic and buoyant.
However, the questions persist. What did happen at Grover's Mill in October of 1938? Was Orson Welles part of an invasion plot that involved mass hypnosis? Are there extraterrestrial biological entities living among us? Documentation outlining an thorough governmental inquiry into these matters has reached this commentator. A report by the investigators, special agents Mulder and Scully, shall be made available to the public in due course. A final note: a page, supposedly torn from Welles' personal diary and written in a shaky, nearly illegible hand, carried the following, ominous message: keep watching the skies!
You will either love or hate this movie. If you get it it is a barrel of laughs. If you don't get it, you say . . . What the hell is this nonsense? It has been said that it's a comedy with all the punchlines removed. But they are there, you just have to read between the lines. It's kind of like one of those Magic Eye Puzzles. You have to look at it with the right kind of eyes. Otherwise you'll just see it as a crappy 80s sci-fi spoof. But trust me, there's more there than meets the eye. Some of the jokes aren't obvious on first viewing, or the 100th for that matter. You may want to consult the DVD extras or Pinky Caruther's 10,000 little known facts. With a bit of research, you can find out the reasons why that watermelon is there!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**WARNING. There shalt be spoilers.**
I was very fortunate and saw this movie when it was in the theaters in 1984 for all of about nine seconds. I've seen it probably fifty or sixty times since then, and every time I do, it still cracks me up. (To be truthful, some of the lines -- "It's your hand, Buckaroo!" -- can crack me up if they simply drift through my head.)
Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is, quite simply, brilliant. This is the perfect example of a movie made for the intelligent moviegoer, and not dumbed down for the mass viewing audience.
Peter Weller plays Buckaroo Banzai, a genius half-American, half-Japanese neurosurgeon, bad musician, and adventurer. He is the leader of the Hong Kong Cavaliers, his backup band/fellow adventurers. Buckaroo and his colleague, Professor Hikita, have created a device called the "Oscillation Overthruster", which allows Buckaroo to drive a highly modified Ford F-350 pickup through a mountainside and into the space between the molecules, the Eighth Dimension.
When Dr. Emilio Lizardo, a former colleague of Professor Hikita, finds out about the overthruster, he breaks free from an asylum where he was residing (likely since 1938) to steal the overthruster. You see, in 1938, Dr. Lizardo fell into the Eighth Dimension and was taken over by a Red Lectroid from Planet 10 named John Whorfin. John has been imprisoned in Dr. Lizardo since then and wants to return home.
When Dr. Lizardo breached the dimensional barrier, he freed many Red Lectroids who were being imprisoned there. All are named John and arrived on Earth, in Grover's Mill, New Jersey on Halloween night, 1938. They all want to return home. But to do so, they will have to steal the overthruster from Buckaroo and his Cavaliers, who don't want to let it go.
Peter Weller is wonderful as Buckaroo, playing him with a Zen-like coolness that many have mistaken for woodenness. He is quick with his own koan-type sayings: "No matter where you go, there you are," and "This will change your life. Or not." Weller finds the character quickly and plays him for all he is worth.
Also amusing is the way Weller is verbally described as half-Japanese, but appears to have no Oriental features. It strikes me to be in the manner of a pulp magazine, where the only Orientals drawn were always villains. However, many of the heroes of the pulps had mystical Oriental training, were raised by wild pandas, etc.
The Cavaliers are well-casted and acted, particularly Reno Nevada (Pepe Serna), Rawhide (Clancy Brown), and Perfect Tommy (Lewis Smith). There are even hints about other Cavaliers, who aren't in the movie, such as Pecos, who is in Tibet.
Ellen Barkin does a fairly good job with her role as the clearly-psychotic Penny Priddy (though far from her best role) and Jeff Goldblum perfectly nails his role as the brain surgeon Sidney, who becomes the cowboy Cavalier, New Jersey. I personally think it's his best role ever.
The villains are fantastic. John Lithgow's Lizardo is the all-time over-the-top hoot. Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedaya, and Vincent Schiavelli all show up as various Black Lectroids, all named John.
Carl Lumbly makes an early acting appearance as a good Red Lectroid, the dreadlocked John Parker. His grin and sunny demeanor lighten up the coming apocalypse and makes his character one of the most likable ones ever on the silver screen.
The movie is low-budget and looks it. Don't be fooled into thinking this matters. The low-budget look perfectly fits the pulp fiction quality that the story demanded. The special effects border on cheesy, but fit the story to a T.
This movie is one of the great science fiction movies, simply because it knew exactly what it was, and it gave the viewer exactly that. It was at once a spoof of 50's era science fiction and a celebration of all things sci fi. It steeped the work in the pulp styles of Doc Savage and poked gentle fun at the pseudo-science used in those same books. It also firmly establishes itself in the '80's, and savagely sends up the politics and fashions of the same decade.
I can't give this movie a grade. I love it too much. It's not perfect, but it's damn close. If you have a solid three-digit IQ and you haven't seen this movie, do so. I envy you for still having the experience in front of you.
If you think that the late '90s Godzilla was pretty good, that Men In Black rocked, and that Independence Day was the greatest movie ever...don't bother. This movie isn't for you.
For those of us who know and love this movie: isn't it great to be rewarded for being smart?
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