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Considered one of the most notorious box-office flops in history (next to
the 'Road to Morocco'-ripoff 'Ishtar' with Dustin Hoffman and Warren
the following year), 'Howard the Duck' became the laughing stock of
and movie-goers alike when it was released in theaters in 1986. If its
executive producer, George Lucas, had his way, he would have canned that
movie for good. But thanks to the home video boom in the 1980s, 'Howard'
would follow suit and find his way into video stores across America.
Nearly twenty years later, 'Howard' is slowly being pulled from video store shelves. But it is now that a film of such poor quality can be truly appreciated.
Here's how it all goes down: You are dropped onto a planet from a far-away universe, where ducks are human-like and are running the world, only to be pulled out again moments later. An everyday working-duck by the name of Howard gets sucked out of his living room on his recliner after returning to his apartment after a long, hard day.
After the opening title is shown in the thundering tradition of cinematic heavyweights like '2001: A Space Odyssey', we see Howard's decent toward the planet Earth. Once he has reluctantly gotten his feet on the ground, he clashes with the dregs of society and saves the lead singer of an all-female punk band named Beverly, (played by 'Back to the Future's Lea Thompson). She tries to give him a hand, and help him get an explanation as to how he got sucked out of his living room and landed in Cleveland, Ohio.
That explanation never actually makes any sense, but that doesn't matter, because better plot developments hinge upon it. With the help of a goofy lab janitor Phil (played by the immortal Tim Robbins in an early comedic role) and a big time nuclear scientist Dr. Jennings (none other than Jeffery Jones), Howard finds out that a giant laser Jennings was using went haywire, and pulled Howard down instead. But going back isn't going to be so easy, because one of Dark Overlords of Evil hitched a ride on that laser, and has plans of planet domination and destruction. And who better than to save the day than the 3'1" (3'2", that is) wise-"quacking" title character, Howard T. Duck!
Although George Lucas got ripped apart for having his hands in this one, I have yet to see a movie that is so awful, so terribly bad that I have been brought to tears crying at simply recalling scenes from this flick. The opening sequences on the duck planet contain countless parodies of American pop culture, and Howard's implausible hurtle through space is enough to make even the most serious chuckle.
Audiences back in 1986 didn't seem to, however. But something about watching this flop nearly two decades later makes all of these scenes so much funnier. The way I see it, our teen generation now has a funny fascination with the decade in which they were born, the 80s, and anything from it has a distinctive look and sound. American pop culture was throwing away Three's Company for MTV, LPs for tapes, and the Bee Gees for the Brat Pack. The youth took yet another step in distancing themselves from their parents, and although they furthered that schism, they too felt a strong connection the past few decades. What was happening when I was in utero? Taking my first steps? Saying my first words?
Today's generation has 'Howard the Duck' as one of the most endangered time capsules of the 80s. You've got a one-of-a-kind performance by now Acadmey Award Winner Tim Robbins, whose his explanation of duck's evolutionary scale is priceless. George Lucas's own Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) special effects studio must be embarassed to have itself credited with the horrendous effects (the Dark Overlord, for one). You've got a helplessly catchy theme song, revelling in all of its cheesy 80s pop-synth glory.
The jokes are terrible, the dialogue sub-par, the plot laughable. But you know what, you'll laugh you a$$ off.
Join me in saving Howard from being pulled from video store shelves. Today's generation will love the waddling fowl more than the angry movie-goers who saw this dud in the theaters. Keep him alive!
HOWARD THE DUCK is one of those movies you have to see to
A whopping boondoggle of sheer notoriety that replaced HEAVEN'S GATE as The Most Embarrassing Miscalculation In Hollywood History, this flick immediately humanized George Lucas; it proved that even he could make a bomb. And that's one of the things that makes it so fascinating--you just sit there, wondering what on earth the man was thinking.
I'm not going to write this with any intent of sarcastically ripping it to shreds, though. I'm going to attempt to both be fair and to express my opinion of it at the same time, mainly because I know that there *are* some folks out there who enjoy it for various reasons.
I'll be honest with you, the moment I heard Lucas was doing this film months in advance (and even then I was convinced the guy telling me was kidding until I saw an article for it in the paper), I rolled my eyes with disgust and didn't see it in the theatres. I saw it when a friend later rented it out of curiosity after it was rushed to video.
So what was it that suddenly possessed me to watch it? Well, I found out that my cousin was in it. You see, my cousin's name is Debbie Carrington (a.k.a. Debbie Lee Carrington), who was an Ewok in RETURN OF THE JEDI as well as a slew of other things, including but not limited to MEN IN BLACK, CAPTAIN EO, TOTAL RECALL (where she got to get on a table in a blonde wig and blast people with a machine gun) and on THE DREW CAREY SHOW ("Mini-Mimi"). So, naturally, I wanted to see this one because I learned of her involvement in it after the fact.
Most people loathe this film, but some like it simply because it's *so* weird in its badness while others genuinely love it for whatever reason. And that's okay. Actually, I kind of got a kick out of it and all its silliness the first time I saw it. We tried to watch it a second time, though, and were bored by it half the way through.
I just now saw it again for the first time since then.
One of the most bizarre things about this movie is how cheap it looks. For all the gobs of cash wasted on it (a record sum), HOWARD THE DUCK looks terrible. And no, I'm not talking about just the duck costume; I'm talking about the overall film, which looks exactly like a low-budget special made for television. Seriously, that's exactly how it looks, and I have no clue as to where the budget went to. I once wondered if it was used to desperately convince the stars involved to be in it, but I doubt it.
And meanwhile... speaking of the stars, I've got to hand it to Lea Thompson. Despite all the oddness here and all the stuff she is asked to do, she handles it all like a real trooper. In fact, this may be the bravest performance she's ever done, especially the bed scene. It also apparently didn't kill her career, thank God. Even though her character isn't at all fitting for a Big City Punkette, critics have nevertheless pointed out that she's still appealing here in her role as Beverly, and I agree. Meanwhile, Jeffery Jones gives quite possibly the strangest performance he's ever done, which is also an oddly effective one.
The biggest problem with the film is its mechanically coy, self-conscious script that has commercialized to death all of the original comic's appeal out of the final result (so what ELSE is new, Hollywood? ;) ). The movie can't decide whether it wants to follow the original concept or sweeten it up to supposedly appeal to a wider audience, and it is badly confused as a result. The movie desperately wants to protect its investment, so much so that the life has been choked out of it. Also, it has a *huge* amount of blah, unimaginatively generic lines ("No more Mr. Nice Duck", "You'll never get away with this", etc.).
But these days, it does have a ridiculous kind of flaky charm, partially because it's such an unbelievable anti-achievement and because it's so incredibly Eighties that it serves as a strong time capsule. And for those reasons and more, HOWARD THE DUCK has earned a place in twentieth century culture.
Howard the Duck is a film that I grew up with, I was only a 1 year old
when it was released, but my mom and I would watch it together all the
time. I think that's the reason why this movie is just special to me.
But still I watch this movie and honestly it's not as bad as most
people exaggerate it to be, granted it's not Citizen Kane, but it's
still awesome to watch. I think people take the movie too seriously,
first off look at the title, if you're expecting a duck to deliver an
Oscar worth performance, get your head checked, second people make fun
of the "flirting" between the duck and Lea Thompson, which was meant to
be a joke, not real. Third, the ending, people make fun of it and it's
being over the top, I personally found it to be so funny and still a
ton of fun to watch, how could you not get a kick out of Jeffrey Jones'
performance? He was awesome! If you wanna know what the movie is about,
read on before you see the movie so you can get a good idea and judge
The film begins late at night in "Duckworld," which is a version of planet Earth, but with talking ducks living there in place of human beings. As Howard tries to relax, his armchair begins to vibrate violently, and Howard and the chair are promptly yanked through outer-space, all the way to Cleveland on planet Earth. After ending up in an oil drum, Howard hears a fight involving a woman and two thugs pretending to be her fans. Howard uses his skills of "Quack Fu" to defend her. Intimidated by a talking duck, the thugs scamper. The woman, Beverly, thanks Howard and, feeling sorry for him because he has no warm and dry place to sleep, invites him to her apartment. The next day, Beverly takes Howard to see Phil Blumburtt , who she believes is a scientist that can help Howard get back to Duckworld. It turns out Phil is actually a janitor at a museum and Howard, infuriated with Phil's charade. A few days later, Dr. Walter Jenning , and Larry who explain to Howard that they were doing a routine procedure at the lab, only for the experiment to go out of control, causing the laser to hit Howard's planet instead. Howard suggests he can be sent back to Duckworld if the laser can be put into reverse. He is taken to the Dynatechnics lab alongside Beverly, only to find out on arrival that the laser is seriously damaged due to another explosion. The explosion brings down a "Dark Overlord" who is not seen by the audience at the time, and takes over Jenning's body. Howard and Beverly see Dr. Jenning, but he is in the process of being taken over by the Dark Overlord. With Howard and Beverly both unaware of this, they escape in Jenning's car onto the freeway with him driving dangerously due to his worsening possession. They stop outside a diner just before he is fully taken over. Inside the Diner, the Overlord explains his attempts to call forth his fellow aliens from the Nexus of Sominus so that they may take over the world.
Honestly, yeah the plot is a bit much to grasp, but cut the movie some slack, it's about a duck for goodness' sake! For me, it still makes me laugh and I have a ton of fun watching it. I loved seeing Tim Robbins and Howard trying to get to the factory to destroy Jeffrey Jones before he could take over the world, Tim was absolutely hilarious! Yes there are a few things about this movie that are over the top but I still think that this movie is just mindless entertainment. Hey how many movies do we have where a duck saves Planet Earth? Hmm, I guess this is the only one; but give the movie a fair chance, it's a cute one.
At a time when most of Marvel Comics' characters were stuck in low
budget TV and straight-to-video productions, Steve Gerber's relatively
obscure Howard the Duck got the big budget treatment with none other
than George Lucas as producer. The film was written by Willard Huyck
and Gloria Katz, who co-wrote "American Graffiti" and "Indiana Jones
and the Temple of Doom", and directed by Huyck, with special effects by
ILM. What could go wrong?
A lot, apparently. "Howard" was a critical and financial failure that deep-sixed the careers of Huyck and Katz and led to the cancellation of the duck's magazine. If the film had a moderately priced budget, it might have been forgotten as just another lightweight, trashy 1980s comedy and even turned a profit. Instead, the budget somehow ballooned to a then staggering $37,000,000 (almost as much as the entire "Star Wars" trilogy cost to make). Although other films lost more money and got worse reviews, the name "Howard the Duck" is still synonymous with "expensive turkey".
That said, the movie itself isn't as bad as it's reputation suggests. The plot revolves around the title character (voice by Chip Zien, played by various midgets in animatronic duck suits), a sarcastic talking duck from a planet a lot like Earth, except ducks evolved into the dominant life form. Howard is brought to Cleveland, Ohio when an experimental laser beam opens an interdimensional portal. There he befriends an aspiring rock singer (Leah Thompson) and a kooky lab assistant (Tim Robbins), and comes into conflict with various lowlifes, the police, and an evil demon that has possessed the body of a helpful scientist (Jeffrey Jones), all the while trying to get back home.
Gerber's original comic book series and a subsequent adult-oriented magazine weren't kids' stuff. They juxtaposed a funny animal character with bizarre villains and action more typical of Marvel's super-hero books, usually parodying comics, politics, and popular culture in the process. A sexual relationship between Howard and his human girlfriend Beverly was more than just implied. The "Howard the Duck" movie could have either toned down the more adult situations to create a family-friendly action-comedy, or gone straight for ribald satire and gotten an "R" rating. Instead, the filmmakers sought an uncomfortable middle ground that pleases no one. The script is not witty enough for adults and it is too sleazy and scary for young children. The endless duck puns become tiresome. There are, however, a few truly funny moments, such as Howard's shock at being served eggs, or his observation that "If God intended ducks to fly, he wouldn't have taken away our wings."
The direction is uneven. The reaction of several characters to meeting a talking alien duck seems muted given the circumstances. The special effects are also hit and miss. The animatronic duck suit cost millions, but the actors inside it add little personality. They could have at least waddled when they walked. The demonic Dark Lords of the Universe at the end of the film are portrayed with stop motion animation that is jerky and unrealistic even for the time (perhaps this was intentional, though, to provide a B-movie feel). However, while a bad movie all around, "Howard the Duck" at least stands out for its unique premise. Amidst a sea of formulaic mediocrity, an original idea, even if it's poorly developed, counts for something.
** out ****
"Howard the Duck" was a critical and commercial failure when it was first
released in the summer of 1986. Since that time, the movie has become
synonymous with one word: BOMB. However, while it is not a very good film,
I feel "Howard the Duck" is not nearly as bad as many people seem to
How can you dislike a film about a midget duck from another planet who (with the help of Lea Thompson and her gigantic '80s hair) saves Earth from impending doom? Not only that, but the menace threatening Earth is the Dark Overlord of the Universe, an evil force that has invaded the body of Jeffery Jones! "Howard the Duck" is one of those movies that is enjoyable in a mindless way. It is by no means classic cinema, but if you are in the right frame of mind, it is very fun to watch.
And don't miss the musical number at the end, when Howard and the cast do the "duck waddle"!
Because a lot of talented people and money were behind this film, I believe that people rated this movie against their expectations and not against other movies. When this movie is compared to other movies of its ilk it is very good! I saw this movie only knowing that G. Lucas (he needs a nick name--the great god of SFX?) was behind it, not knowing that some of the other talent had appeared in much better/ tonier fare) and I was thoroughly delighted--viewing after viewing. Lea (was she chosen because of her similarity to Leaia?) did about as good of a job as anyone can when your romantic lead is a duck. Her trademark short skirt and legs did a lot to help. The other actors seemed to be having fun with their roles as well-- and that is what this movie was supposed to be about fun. Ever since Entertainment Tonight began pushing box office results as an indicator of quality, this has virtually become the only criteria of quality--but dont be fooled! What the public spends its money on does not always a good movie make(and vice versa). Ignore the tyrants of the dollars, spend a couple on Howard and you will be more than rewarded!
Aren't B-Movies fun?
Wait a second ... this isn't a B-Movie! George Lucas wouldn't sign his name to a low-budget piece of tripe, would he? Well, he did.
If you're actually looking for a good piece of cinema, stop right here. However, if the words 'talking alien duck' cause bells to ring in your mind, read on.
Yes, it's a B-Movie. It's a high budget, professionally made one, but it's as bad as most other B-Movies. But, it's also one of the funniest things I've seen in quite a while. Sure, it gets boring, but look at the concept: A TALKING ALIEN DUCK! What more can I say?
So, if you have a twisted sense of humour and have already been drawn in by my one real summary (A TALKING ALIEN DUCK), then check this movie out. You'll enjoy it. But, if you're not a fan of bad eighties movies stick with Star Wars or Indiana Jones, movies that Lucas probably actually cared about.
It still puzzles me today why this movie is so despised by people. There are so many more trash movies out there like the Perfect Storm, the Lost World, and even George Lucas' overblown Episode I, that go on to make tons of money and are total garbage, and yet pretend like they're actually great movies. Howard the Duck is not so egotistical in it's approach. It admits to its campy silliness (I mean c'mon, it's a movie about a talking duck, how can people try to take it seriously?). Needless to say, it's a fun movie because of its schlock factor, and is boosted by its terrific special effects, over the top performances, and fantastic musical score by legendary composer, John Barry. Overall, I consider Howard the Duck perhaps the most unappreciated film of all time, and one the greatest B-movies ever. Go Howard!
While watching TV, the humanoid duck Howard (Ed Gale) is dragged from
his planet to an alley in Cleveland through a mysterious force. He
befriends the rock-'n-roll singer Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson), who
introduces him to the clumsy scientist assistant Phil Blumburtt (Tim
Robbins). Howard gets in many troubles until Phil brings his colleague
Dr. Walter Jenning (Jeffrey Jones) that explains him that he was
accidentally pushed through a laser beam of his experiment in
Alpha-Centauri, and he proposes to revert the beam to return Howard to
his planet. However, Dr. Jenning is possessed by the demon Dark
Overlords that has also come from the outer space. When Beverly is
kidnapped by the Dark Overlords that needs energy to bring other demons
to Earth, Howard and Phil join forces to rescue Beverly and save our
The underrated "Howard the Duck" is a cult silliness from the 80's. The anti-hero Howard is cool and it is funny to see Tim Robbins in the beginning of his career performing a clumsy scientist and Lea Thompson in a sweet role singing many songs in her early career. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Howard, O Super-Herói" ("Howard, the Super-Hero")
Sure, "Howard the Duck" can be ridiculous at parts, but not quite as
ridiculous as someone who comments that the film was "so terribly bad
that I have been brought to tears crying at simply recalling scenes
from this flick." Some people need to grow up.
Speaking of growing up, I haven't seen this film since I was an adolescent. Nearly twenty years later, I finally found it again and sat down with great excitement to see this "awesome film" that I remembered having watched countless of times while young.
So, did I have the typically disappointing experience that usually accompanies such a visit to the past? Yes and no.
Perhaps my view of the film is still coloured by the fact that I loved it as a child, but I will try to be as objective as possible. I will skip the plot, since it has been said here so many times already.
What struck me the most about the film when watching it as a jaded adult were a few things.
First of all, the whole sexual innuendo between Howard and Beverly happens incredibly fast. So quickly, in fact, that its already built-in silliness treads on incredulity. Funny how I found that a perfectly reasonable progression as a kid. But hey, what did I know about women back then! The second thing is that the film feels as if it's really two films put together, but the real problem with that is really the way the two halves are partitioned. The first half is relatively quiet, interesting, and very well paced (aside from the "romance" part). We are interested in finding out what will happen to Howard, and how he will return home. Then, out of nowhere, the film switches to a painfully long chase scene. If you thought the wisecracks in the first half were silly, wait till you see the second half.
Speaking of wisecracks, the entire diner scene really tests ones nerves. I don't know whose idea it was to include some lame "joke" in every other line, but it got very annoying.
Finally, in the end, there were some... um.. special effects.. involving a monster. I must admit here: this was the most shocking thing for me, both as a child and as an adult, though for entirely different reasons. As a kid, I found the thing scary, man. When I watched it yesterday, I nearly chuckled. What a shame, really, as even by 1980s special effects technology, there is really no excuse for this. Still, it does what its supposed to do.
I do not understand why every know-it-all wannabe Hollywood lackey wants to blast this endearing film as if it were "Armageddon." I saw significance in Howard's resemblance to us. The scene in the diner in particular took on a very new light for me with this latest viewing, one that showed humans as brutal, unthinking animals. Of course, that is not to say a film this silly hides some kind of earth-shattering reflection on the human condition. It's just fun!
In conclusion, then, we have a funny, corny 80s movie about a duck who comes to save us, with the second half's chase scene becoming slightly tedious, and a great ending. It's endearing, it is heart-warming, and it's also "dumb." That doesn't make it any worse than a host of other ridiculous films from the 80s: the unbearable idiocy of "Weekend at Bernie's," the mindlessness of "Armageddon" (which should really be used as an IQ test - the more you laugh, the stupider you are), or anything where Will Smith tries to act cool. Every Will Smith film, in other words. And let's not mention the slew of typically perverted Hollywood spewage concerning teens, parties with teens, and teens on trips through Europe. Throw in the deviancy and face-in-the-mud scum-filled "comedy" of the majority of Adam Sandler movies, and you'd be hard pressed to vilify a film as lovely and harmless as "Howard the Duck." Of course, stooping so low as ridiculing "Howard the Duck" is pathetic enough, but what is even more amusing is those who attempt a scornful laugh at it. I guess some people are desperate for self-elevation.
"Howard the Duck" is a great film to watch with family or friends, when you are in the mood for something lighthearted and fun.
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