Awfully Good: Howard the Duck

Howard the Duck (1986)

Director: Willard Huyck
Stars: Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, Jeffrey Jones

Is there a plot?

An oversized alien duck is sent to the most dangerous place in the universe…Cleveland.

What's the damage?

People (appropriately) give George Lucas grief for the Prequels and the Star Wars Holiday Special, but perhaps the most bizarrely horrible thing the man ever unleashed upon society was this adult dark comedy about live action anthropomorphic waterfowl. At least THE PHANTOM MENACE never showed Jar Jar's naked Gungan breasts.


I really have no idea who HOWARD THE DUCK was made for. Exactly which audience is looking for a live action movie with a horny duck that sounds like Steve Buscemi, bad 80s music sung by Marty McFly's mom, and an alien-possessed Mr. Rooney hellbent on destroying the world? The flick is too weird for the average viewer, too silly for even the most immature adults and the humor, mostly waterfowl puns and slapstick, is painfully unfunny. Not to mention any parents who naturally brought their kid to a movie about a talking animal probably left horrified and speed dialing therapists. Within the first few minutes we see Howard drinking, smoking and looking at an issue of Playduck. We then get a look at a topless duck taking a bath, which is incredibly disturbing and forever ruined Daisy Duck for me. Later, Howard works at what I'm pretty sure is a whorehouse (as a janitor, no less) and hits on a large woman.

I'm sure somebody in Japan is turned on right now. To everyone else, I'm sorry.

And that doesn't even cover the truly off putting sexual tension between Howard and Lea Thompson. Typically I'd say that I can see why Thompson would sign up for a George Lucas produced movie (in the 80s at least), as it probably sounded good on paper. But if that paper actually contained any part of this script, then she should've known it was toilet paper. The character of Beverly and her relationship with Howard is by far one of the film's weirdest and worst aspects. Shortly after arriving on Earth (via an interdimensional jumping laser), Howard saves Beverly from getting raped outside her concert by using his patented "Quack Fu." He goes home with her, they share an almost-intimate moment and soon she's referring to him as her boyfriend at a…Cajun sushi diner? (At one point we also watch as she amusedly pulls out a duck-sized condom out of his wallet.) Even at the end, when Howard becomes Beverly's manager, it's never directly addressed WHAT they are or HOW they do...things.

The lead singer of Semisonic has not aged well at all.

More importantly, however, by the end she still hasn't said "OH MY GOD, YOU'RE A TALKING ALIEN DUCK!" In fact, everyone in this movie seems to remain fairly calm and understanding when they meet a wisecracking waterfowl from another dimension. And that includes "smart" characters like scientists Jeffery Jones and David Paymer or Tim Robbins' hyperactive lab assistant. While Jones give it his all as a human slowly transforming in to an alien warlord, all the actors here should be embarrassed by this movie.

A normal human's reaction when Salma Hayek disrobes in front of them.

There's plenty more wrong with HOWARD THE DUCK but its biggest sin is just being boring. (The slow airplane chase has to be one of the more laughable action sequences I can remember.) It's a train wreck, no doubt, but once you get over the initial curiosity of the unconvincing duck suit, the disconcerting character arcs and the nonsensical story you still have another hour or so to go.

"Best" Line

Our perverted hero Howard takes a crack at Lea Thompson in her underwear.

"Best" Parts

1) A good sample of how disturbing the romance between Lea Thompson and a giant duck can be.

2) Two scenes involving Howard's unimpressive mastery of "Quack Fu."

3) Howard's theme song…live! (Warning: Ear rape.)

Nudity Watch

Naked duck boobs to haunt your dreams.


Hungry for foie gras? Buy this movie here!

Play Along at Home!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Howard gets picked up or tossed
  • Lea Thompson sings
  • There's a duck related pun
  • Howard dances or plays music
  • You spot David Paymer

Double shot if:

  • Tim Robbins quotes Brando

Thanks to Tim and Ben 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.

Source: Digital Dorm
Tags: awfully good



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