the angry dome’s quick capsule review of “buckaroo banzai”: piece of shit

buckaroo_banzai_xI remember seeing this on VHS (I am old) right after it came out. I have no doubt that my stepfather — whose only criteria for a movie is that it have a beginning, a middle, and an end (not every movie qualifies, believe it or not) — was responsible. I remember being confused as hell by it, although in later years I chalked that up to being nine years old. Nine-year-olds are confused about a lot of things, like fractions and how the cream gets into a Twinkie.

So when I saw on Sunday night in the Dish guide that it was coming on IFC, I thought I’d watch it and maybe it would be fun and campy as an adult. Turns out, it is still terrible. And the title is misleading, because Buckaroo Banzai spends about 4 seconds actually in the 8th dimension. Also, Peter Weller is supposed to be half Japanese, which I don’t think I understood as a child. Peter Weller does not look even a little Japanese. Having him randomly say things like Arigato or wave around a kitana does not make him seem any more Japanese. It just accentuates how Not Japanese he is.

Look, I get the appeal of campy movies. I like Velvet Goldmine and Mommy Dearest and everything John Waters has ever done. (Okay, not Pink Flamingos. UGH.) But if a movie also has a terrible, nonsensical plot and looks like it was edited by a bunch of rhesus monkeys who escaped from a test lab in New Jersey, camp alone is not going to save it. Having aliens called “Black Lectroids” that appear to be terrible Rastafarian impersonators != funny. It’s just annoying.

Another thing that baffles me about this movie is that it gives you the feeling of having been dropped into the middle of a not particularly funny inside joke. There’s clearly a whole backstory to the character, as to why he has a comic book and a rock band and an army of followers who all got their secret decoder rings out of the same box of Buckaroo Banzai Cereal or something. But almost none of it is explained. Whoever wrote this asinine script obviously spent so much time thinking up this alternate universe that I thought for sure it must be based on a comic book or old series of movie serials or something. But apparently this movie was the genesis of Buckaroo Banzai; and although all that other crap exists now, it came after the movie. This probably wouldn’t be a problem if they made the movie today, because they’d have viral advertising and websites and all that crap, and you’d know going in (if you gave a shit) what was going on. But this movie was released a dozen years before the internet existsed in any meaningful form!

This scene pretty much encapsulates the nonsensical terribleosity of The Adventures Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! (yes, the exlamation point is really part of the title):

Is there a reason why John Lithgow’s character had to hook an electrical clamp to his tongue, just so we could get a flashback about how his oscillation overthruster didn’t quite work? These two things have nothing to do with each other. The writer/director clearly just wanted to shoehorn in a shot of John Lithgow getting hideously electrocuted, because HA HA THAT’S HILARIOUS RIGHT?!

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Johnny Chicago
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 10:04:49

    Well, it’s called “ACROSS the 8th Dimension” because that’s what he did – just one of his many many accomplishments he has humbly accepted, as he is also a rock star, neurosurgeon and all around nice guy.

    Once he made it possible to cross the dimensions (you know, through the mountain), he brought back a ‘Lectroid creature and made it possible for the other ‘Lectroids who worked at YoYoDyne to know they could return with Lord John Whorfin, opening up the time/space dimension completely and making our Earth vulnerable to attack.

    I hope I’ve helped here somehow, and yes I was one of the few who saw it in it’s initial release back in mid-1985.

    The following night at the Army post theater in Seattle? They showed the many-men-struggling-with-their-homosexuality flick “Top Gun.” Of course, it was packed.

    p.s. – why did Whorfin give us the flashback? It’s called continuity, my friend. Give it a chance, you’ll find out it’s a pretty fun flick to enjoy!

  2. pinstripebindi
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 18:24:35

    Uh yeah, I wasn’t questioning the reason for the flashback, genius. Simply the reasoning behind why Whorfin had to hook that thing up to his head and gruesomely shock himself, as if we couldn’t see the flashback without it.

    I’m real happy that this lame piece of crap movie gives meaning to your life or whatever, but you need to just accept that some people thought it was boring and stupid.

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