Awfully Good: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc in KNIVES OUT is a welcome entry in the pantheon of great cinematice detectives.
You know who's not a great cinematic detective?


The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)


Director: Renny Harlin
Stars: Andrew Dice Clay, Lauren Holly, Wayne Newton

Ford Fairlane

A "rock and roll detective" must solve a tangled mystery of murder and missing persons in the music industry. Also, he has a pet koala bear.

That's not really pertinent to the plot, but I thought you should know.

Joel Silver had an absolutely insane run as a producer in the 1980s, bestowing audiences with classic after classic film like COMMANDO, LETHAL WEAPON, PREDATOR, DIE HARD, and ROAD HOUSE. But like with all good things, the streak was bound to end. And boy did it end with the critical and commercial misfire THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE.

Ford Fairlane penis
Andrew Dice Clay is confronted by his biggest critic.

I don't think shock comedian Andrew Dice Clay was who author Rex Weiner had in mind when he was writing his Ford Fairlane series of Raymond Chandler-meets-punk rock detective stories, but it sort of makes sense. Clay was massively popular in the late 80s, selling out Madison Square Garden with his vulgar and purposefully offensive stand-up comedy. If you had to cast a "rock and roll detective" with a DGAF attitude, I can see why he might seem like a good choice.

And make no mistake, every second of THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE is 110% Andrew Dice Clay. The title character is technically a private eye, but he's essentially just Clay's overbearingly macho schtick under a different name. From the opening narration, where he tells the entire world to "suck my Dick Tracy," the movie is just the comedian making off-color jokes and throwing himself at anything remotely female while the rest of the film happens around him.

Suffice to say, that if you do not enjoy the comedy stylings of Andrew Dice Clay, this is probably not a movie for you.

Ford Fairlane mightly penis
Now I want to buy a boat just so I can name it this.

While Clay is crude and wildly un-PC, and this movie is admittedly deserving of every Razzie it received, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't at least some stuff to enjoy here. Sure, there are jokes and parts of FORD FAIRLANE that have not aged particularly well, but if you take it as a product of its time, the non-stop zingers and sheer quirkiness in some of the onscreen choices can be surprisingly entertaining. Clay's constant one-liners range from funny to groan-inducting to flat out bizarre (and that's not coutning his vocal reactions to his own jokes), but the sheer number works in his favor, so much so that I had a hard time narrowing down the Best Lines below.

Ford Fairlane kid
I mean, tehcnically enough time has passed for SON OF FORD FAIRLANE. Just saying…  

When you look beyond the comedy, FORD FAIRLANE is still a delightfully strange film. On one hand, it's clearly a vanity project for Andrew Dice Clay. His character has a threesome with twins and then makes them do his dishes. He goes to a sorority house to "look for clues," only for the girls to stop their games of Twister, pillow fights, and corn dog deepthroating to fawn all over him. He even stops for a musical number at a recording studio to show off his singing chops. It's really not hard to see why the comedian signed on to this.

However, there's also a weird level of parody happening as well. One second there'll be a semi-serious scene where a character is brutally murdered, followed by the title character going back to his office to drink milkshakes and hang out with his aforementioned koala bear friend (brought to life by an in-no-way-realistic puppet). He'll harass and touch women against their will, then have a heart-to-heart with the child who lives next door, so the movie can show what a loving, caring person he actually is. It's a weird tone that, coupled with constant reminders that Ford Fairlane is not very good at his job, makes the "hero" look like a buffoon in ways that seem very anti-Andrew Dice Clay.

Ford Fairlane lauren holly
Andrew Dice Clay was about to learn what a mistake it was to incur the wrath of Lloyd Christmas.

Luckily, Clay has a solid supporting cast to back him up, mainly DUMB AND DUMBER's Lauren Holly as his prim and proper secretary who does all the real detective work (and of course secretly wants to sleep with her boss). If there's any humanity to Clay's character, it's mostly due to Holly dragging it out of him. There's also MARRIED WITH CHILDREN star Ed O'Neill as a cop who's always singing and dancing to his one-hit-wonder disco song "Booty Time." Brandon Call (STEP BY STEP and Awfully Good favorite BLIND FURY) plays the kid sidekick who desperately wants Fairlane to be his father figure for some reason. And last but not least we're graced with Freddy Kreuger himself, Robert Englund, playing a psychotic British henchman who is constantly laughing maniacally and saying lines like, "Your assistant is quite special. I look forward to raping her at your funeral."

Given the subject matter, there are also supporting roles and cameos by a who's who of 80s music stars, including Morris Day, Tone Loc, Vince Neil, Sheila E. and many more. Wife-of-Elvis Priscilla Presley appears in her her only non-NAKED GUN role as a convincing femme fatale. And of course when you need a villain to stand toe-to-toe with Andrew Dice Clay, you hire…famed Vegas crooner Wayne Newton? It's a truly head-scratching casting choice made worse by the fact that Newton is completely non-threatening and terrible at acting.

Ford Fairlane ron burgundy
Trivia: This movie also marked the first onscreen appearance of Ron Burgundy.

Also worth mentioning is director Renny Harlin, who would receive the first of five Worst Director Razzie nominations for his work on FORD FAIRLANE, which I think is a little unfair. Harlin seems to understand the wackiness of the material and doesn't stand in the way of Clay or the script's more bizarre leanings and fourth wall-breaking moments. (Did we mention there's a koala bear sidekick in this movie?) The action is nothing to write home about, but there are fights and shootouts, big explosions, and car chases that are all competently shot. Granted, the car chase takes place in a cemetery with a stolen hearse where the busty near-naked corpse gets loose and begins simulating oral sex on Andrew Dice Clay as he drives and makes jokes about her being an "organ donor." Maybe that Razzie nomination wasn't so far off…

Ford Fairlane koala

Ford Fairlane koala
Again, not joking. There's really a koala bear in this movie.

At the end of the day, does this movie deserve all the hate? Yeah, probably. But that doesn't mean it's also not occasionally fun to watch.


A lot of cleavage and near-nudity, but Ford Fairlane is a big tease.

Ford Fairlane
Here's to you…. buying this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone calls Ford Fairlane a "rock and roll detective"
  • Andrew Dice Clay laughs or says "OH!" in response to one of his own jokes
  • Andrew Dice Clay refers to something as "unbelievable"
  • Andrew Dice Clay claims to have had sexual intercourse with a famous celebrity
  • Something explodes

Double shot if:

  • Robert Englund doesn't die


Thanks to Jay and Dre for suggesting this week's movie!


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


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