Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)
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The movie is probably too allegorical for most tastes, but this is a great tale about a character afraid of life, afraid of that next step, who finds his courage and puts his foot forward again.
All in all this is one of the best kinds of movies, Funny and Hopeful.
reactions in moviegoers. Based on the evidence of "Moonstruck"
and the woefully underrated "Joe Versus the Volcano," writer/director John Patrick Shanley could have developed into a
vital film figure on the level of a Frank Capra or Woody Allen, a
creator whose personal voice would have given him a distinctive
identity - potentially his artistic and commercial strength (or
"Joe Versus the Volcano" has its occasional shortcomings, but its
sheer conceptual audacity set it apart from the film fare of its day.
Now, nearly a decade and a half after its premiere, the quality of
the dialogue alone reminds us how far our THX-ed out, Dolbyed-out, effects-obsessed movie "culture" has fallen.
The plot combines fantasy and satire in equal proportions. Joe
(Tom Hanks), a seemingly passive man who's worked at a
dreadful, abusive, dead-end job for years is told he has an
incurable disease (authoritatively diagnosed by physician Robert
Stack as a "brain cloud.") Joe quits his job and receives an offer
the next morning to go on an all-expenses paid journey to a tiny
island...that will culminate with his leap into a volcano!
Meg Ryan portrays three separate characters, and her glee in
masking her "All-American Sweetheart" screen persona is
palpable, particularly in the first segment. Even the occasional
gambits that fall slightly flat (for instance, Abe Vigoda's turn as a
leader of island natives obsessed with orange soda) cannot
seriously mar the overall brilliance of Shanley's work.
As it turned out, the box-office failure of "Volcano" didn't deter
Hanks and Ryan from reteaming for the enormously popular but
comparatively colorless "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got
Mail." (It's probably no accident that these were far safer
commercial bets than "Joe," both owing large debts to earlier
On the other hand, John Patrick Stanley has returned to crafting
plays for live theater, apparently for good; one hopes his finely
tuned ear and immense imagination will flourish in an environment that's largely removed from the demographic
panderings of Wal-Mart Nation. His gain is our loss.
Earlier, I mentioned Frank Capra as a semi-analogue to Shanley.
Perhaps this comparison may help: If you are one of the many who
can't abide Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," you probably should
stay away from "Joe Versus the Volcano" as though you had the
plague...or even a "brain cloud."
My only gripe is (spoiler alert!) when the yacht goes down taking the crew with it. I liked the crew and their watery deaths disturb me. If I were to remake this film (starring myself, of course, in the Ryan role) I have the crew pop up from the water, each clinging to one of the magic suitcases.
thanks to everyone for sharing their thoughts... T.WJ
The highlight of the film is the comedy. It is laugh-out-loud funny in a very intelligent and inventive way. Tom Hanks as Joe is great at subtle comedy and Meg Ryan is great at over-the-top comedy. I enjoyed Hanks' character, an average Joe suffering from hypochondria, and I enjoyed Ryan's characters, weird at times, but ultimately cute and sweet.
Written and directed by the genius playwright John Patrick Shanley, this is his first feature film. It has his trademark dialogue with quick wit, but it's also just plain weird. It's a very simple story which he tells too slowly at times, and the ending gets way too cheesy. But then again, that's probably on purpose, which makes it funny.
If you're looking for a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie which is not a romantic comedy, then "Joe Versus the Volcano" is your choice.
Maybe I just liked Hank's role of a hypochondriac who is thinking of killing himself after he learns he's dying. No, I don't advocate that, but it's actually credible and darkly humorous.
The film turns out to be a life-affirming, inspiring story in many ways because Hanks meets various people who change his outlook, from one of probable suicide to "life is worth living." Maybe a positive message is the big reason the national critics didn't like it, as they tend to gravitate toward darkness, not light.
If you're looking for a "cute," lightweight feel-good film for the evening, I'd recommend renting this one.
Favorite scenes include Mr. Waturi's "I am not arguing that with you" rant and when Joe and Patricia are floating on their makeshift boat and Joe sees the moon rise. The late Lloyd Bridges also turns in a stellar performances as Patricia and DeDe's dad Samuel Graynamore.
It's one of those films I watch when I feel depressed, and inevitably, it lifts my spirits. My advice to critics of the movie is to view it as it is intended ... pure cinematic cotton candy. Don't expect to see an Academy Award winner, by any means.
And ultimately, who - at one time or another - has not experienced a "brain cloud?"
Practically every name, line and visual image has multiple meanings. Many repeat throughout the movie, such as the lightning bolt, the dogs, the ducks. There are so many lines that will stick with you.
Before you see the movie, check out some of the blogs and they'll point you in the right direction so you can get the most of the experience.
Tom Hanks, before the Oscars, gives as good a performance as anyone has on screen. The scenes of him at the factory in the beginning are priceless.
Meg Ryan is also wonderful in several flashy roles. She is able to create different characters, all with the same basic undercurrent of sadness and desire.
Many wonderful cameos and short scenes with Lloyd Bridges standing out as the man who sends Joe Banks on his quest.
This fantasy film is a great barometer of those that "get it' and those that don't. To me, it was perfect, and I wish they made more movies like this today.
A ten out of ten. Easily.
It follows a man through a journey of self discovery and along the way introduces us to the absurdities of daily living as embodied in the odd group of supporting characters.
Meg Ryan plays three different characters, each one personifying a quirk of personality that we all possess. Tom's Joe goes through as many changes, yet all in the same character. This is how we track his growth.
Some of the most effective scenes are the no or little dialogue scenes which exemplify Joe's journey, not just to the volcano, but to his self awareness.
Along with the beautiful message, we are treated to some of the most clever visual comedy images ever filmed. Add to the mix a superb script and wonderful acting and you have a romantic comedy that I feel is a must see.
Whenever I'm feeling like life is a real crapper, all I have to do is put this film in and I'm good again; everything's right with the world. This is an underrated gem of a film. (Shanley should be a bit more prodigious.)