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Awfully Good: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai

11.01.2017

THOR: RAGNAROK isn't the first extra-dimensional sci-fi comedy Jeff Goldblum has been awesome in…

 

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

 

Director: W.D. Richter
Stars: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum

A physicist/neurosurgeon/pilot/rock star is tasked with stopping an alien race war in New Jersey that could inadvertently start World War III.

THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION seems like it was made specifically to attain cult status. A satire of old-fashioned pulp adventures, this is a movie that defies description—a sci fi-western-romantic-comedy-adventure-musical about a kung-fu renaissance man that protects our planet with his rock and roll gang of scientists and his dimension-hopping jet car. Sadly (and unsurprisingly), it also defied mainstream audiences, becoming a commercial and critical flop that ended up bankrupting it's production company, Sherwood Studios.

But don’t let that stop you from giving this hidden gem a shot. If you like 80s treasures like ICE PIRATES or BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS,this movie is totally worth it.


After the music royalties dried up, Sir Mix-A-Lot found work as a screenwriter.

One of its most endearing qualities is how much BUCKAROO BANZAI commits to its out-there premise, without regard for the comfort or safety of its audience. Not only does the film not hold your hand, but it actively spits on all your appendages. Aside from a quick opening text crawl that does more to confuse than enlighten, the movie kicks in to high gear with lots of unexplained weirdness and near-nonsensical lingo. In the first few minutes, you see the hero drive a rocket car through an inter-dimensional mountain AND perform a groundbreaking brain surgery. ("Dr. Banzai is using a laser to vaporize a pineal tumor without damaging the parthogenital plate.") Then you're introduced to the outlandish villain played by John Lithgow, who's locked up in an insane asylum and speaks in what sounds like complete gibberish but is actually crucial plot and character info.


Still a better Electro than Jamie Foxx.

Director W.D. Richter allegedly had a Buckaroo bible on set, full of hundreds of pages of reference material, back story, and further adventures of the hero. That "world-building on meth" element is great for making the universe feel lived-in, but it doesn't help make the plot any easier to understand. The main story involves a group of Rastafarian aliens (a.k.a the Black Lectroids) engaged in a race war with a group of Nazi-esque aliens (a.k.a. the Red Lectroids). Their fight spills over in to our dimension and if Buckaroo isn't able to defeat the Red Lectroid leader and prevent him from using his "osciliation overthruster" to escape, the aliens will fake an attack on the Soviet Union, which could cause a nuclear war. Did I mention that, for some reason, all the aliens are named John? Or that Buckaroo has any army of child fans that he arms with machine guns to fight for him? And who can forget the suicidal girl who turns out to be Buckaroo's dead wife's twin sister just in time to get tangled up in all of this?


Jeff Golblum is a cowboy. Your argument invalid.

Thankfully, BUCKAROO BANZAI has one hell of a cast to help pull it all together. ROBOCOP star Peter Weller plays the title character with convincing charm and gusto, which is no small feat considering he has to be a brilliant doctor, action hero and rock singer all at the same time. (Not to mention he also has to believably say dialogue like "Evil pure and simple by way of the Eighth Dimension!") In addition to Weller, there's Jeff Goldblum as a cowboy from New Jersey, Christopher Lloyd as an alien businessman named John BigBooty (pronounced Big BooTAY…) and slew of great character actors like Clancy Brown, Vincent Schiavelli, Dan Hedaya, and even Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks.


I never thought I would say this in a serious way but: Squad Goals.

However, the real star of the show is without a doubt John Lithgow's evil Dr. Lizardo. Lithgow plays the scowling, heavily-accented villain so over-the-top that it's like watching a cartoon come to life. It's a remarkable performance solely because of how much the actor commits to the crazy body language and voice. If there was an Oscar category for Best Performance Playing a Man Who's Merged With An Alien from the 8th Dimension, Lithgow would just keep winning every year.


Not everyone was a fan of John Lithgow's performance.

There’s really nothing not to enjoy here. Even the weaker elements—such as the love story with Ellen Barkin (which is Ellen Barkin finding out she looks like the hero's dead wife and deciding to be in love with him) or the cheap production values and technical gaffes (the original cinematographer was fired halfway through and the result is definitely noticeable)—are sort of endearing. Probably the only truly upsetting thing about BUCKAROO BANZAI is that the end directly promises a sequel that was never made: BUCKAROO BANZAI AGAINST THE WORLD CRIME LEAGUE. Your disappointment when that title card hits the screen will be short lived, however, because this movie has one of my all-time favorite end credit sequences.


Jonathan Banks must just really enjoy working on projects with "B" alliteration in the title.

Pretty much anything John Lithgow says in this movie could be included here, but paid service to all the hilarious and bizarre lines.

John Lithgow goodness, Jeff Goldblum logic, and of course the amazing end credits sequence.

No, you might be thinking of the porn parody F*CKAROO BONE-ZAI.


Why is there a watermelon there? Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone says "Overthruster"
  • John Lithgow overacts
  • Someone's name is John
  • Someone gets called "monkey boy"

Double shot if:

  • Someone corrects the name "Bigbooty"

 

Thanks to Foster, Mike M. and Sara for suggesting this week's movie!

 

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: Kevin Smith was set to remake BUCKAROO BANZAI as a TV show last year, but left the project for legal reasons.
Source: JoBlo.com

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