Sunday, April 17, 2011

Movie – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

This movie title is sometimes shortened to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, or even just Buckaroo Banzai.  No matter what you call it, it is just plain demented.  This film is the very definition of a cult movie.  Watch this to see the kind of movie that could never be made today.

It has a large cast of characters, many of whom are early roles for actors like Peter Weller (Robocop), John Lithgow (Third Rock from the Sun), Ellen Barkin (The Big Easy), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), and Carl Lumbly (Alias.)  The movie also has comedian Yakov Smirnoff and character actors Clancy Brown, Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedaya, and Jonathan Banks.

Peter Weller stars as Buckaroo Banzai, your typical physicist, neurosurgeon, adventurer, presidential advisor, and rock star.  He has a crew of men, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, who are his backing band and lab assistants.  After he successfully tests his Oscillation Overthruster, which allows him to travel through solid matter via the 8th dimension, he finds himself the target of the Red Lectroids from Planet 10 who want to steal his device for their evil purposes.  After that it starts getting strange.

At one point the filmmakers decided to see how much leeway the studio would give them while making the movie.  They shot a scene where two of the characters are walking through a lab.  There’s a watermelon prominently placed.  One asks why it is there and the other says that it would take too long to explain.  That’s it.  You never find out what’s going on with the watermelon.  When the studio didn’t question the filmmakers about this scene they knew they had a free hand to do any demented thing they could think of.

Like This is Spinal Tap, this movie is also eminently quotable:

“No matter where you go…there you are.”

“Laugh while you can monkey-boy.”

(During brain surgery) “Don’t tug on that.  You don’t know what it might be attached to.”

(After being asked if things were okay or if we should go ahead and bomb Russia) “Yes on one.  No on two.”  “Which one was yes again?”

(Repeated joke about the surname Bigboute) “It’s big-boo-TAY!”

The commentary track is done by the director, W.D. Richter and “Reno Nevada” (actor Pepe Serna), one of the Hong Kong Cavaliers.  They treat the movie as if it were a documentary on real events in the life of Buckaroo Banzai, with Reno giving some insights into things.  Most or all of the other extras on the DVD are the same way: treating this as if it were real and not fiction.  Oh, and if you really want to know what was up with the watermelon, there are a couple of easter eggs (hidden features) on the DVD that go into it in more detail.

When the main movie ends you should continue watching the end credits.  At first it looks like the movie is over when a card comes up telling us to watch for the next Buckaroo Banzai adventure (which never was shot).  After a few seconds, the cast comes back and gathers for a couple minute walk while the credits are shown around them.  Twenty years later the Bill Murray movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou recreated this ending for their movie, too.  Jeff Goldblum was in both movies.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Buckaroo Banzai is the kind of movie where either you get it or you don’t.  I don’t mean get the plot; I mean get the humor.  I suggest giving the movie a try.  You might end up wondering why so many people like it, or you may become one of those people.  Hopefully it’s the latter.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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