Friday, January 23, 2009

Now Playing: Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

What the hell is this?

When I decided to fill in the gaps in my extensive movie knowledge, I figured there would be some bumps along the way. Then I got to this and I think my brain literally froze. I’ve heard it described as “a comedy with all the punchlines removed” which bears asking a simple question:

“What’s the point?”

In a comedy, saying something funny does not necessarily require the use of a punchline. For Exhibit A, I present “Raising Arizona” which in my view is one of the five funniest films ever. Nary a punchline in sight, but rip-roaringly hilarious all the same. It comes from character, you see.

The more invested you are in the characters, the more tuned you become to their particular rhythms. Not once did I care about a single character anywhere in the film or what they were doing. As such, “Buckaroo Banzai,” though ballsy in ambition, has now been consigned by Yours Truly to the bin of awful throw-away 80’s comedies.

Witness Peter Weller’s delivery in the prison. He asks his buddy, Perfect Tommy, to give his jacket to Buckaroo’s girl, Penny Pretty (no joke).

I think the only thing that works is John Lithgow’s utterly unhinged performance as Lord John Worfin. If you thought you’d seen him go over the top before, and “Cliffhanger” and “Ricochet” are pretty far out there, you’ve seen nothing. He goes berserk here and hilariously so. But it’s like he’s performing in a different movie, nay universe, than everyone else. The only thing missing is a mustache for him to twirl as he makes Snidely Whiplash look like a den mother for the girl scouts.

So this was a glaring gap in my film knowledge? Pfft. I’ve now seen it. It sucks. As such, I’m moving on.

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