A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 31 – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension – March 31, 2010

I could practically write this review without watching the movie. We’ve seen it so many times, we know it by heart. It is unquestionably one of our favorite movies of all time. But we’re watching the extended version tonight, and since we depended on an ancient VHS copy for a long time, we’ve only seen the extended version a few times. The major difference is the opening ‘home movie’ that gives some extra background for the character of Buckaroo and his origins. It also names Hanoi Xan, a villain who plays no direct role on the events in the movie, but is far more involved in the story in the book.

Completely aside from the movie’s awesome cast and plot, there’s the script. This is probably our most quoted-from movie. I’m including a quotation list at the bottom, because I cannot help myself.

So have you seen this movie? If you haven’t, why not? Afraid of the 80s fashion and John Lithgow? It’s cool. I can forgive that. Lithgow’s a freaky guy. But seriously, don’t drag your heels on this one. Go watch it, then come talk to me. Because I don’t want to waste my time explaining it in detail. There’s just too much to cover to express the awesome. I mean, Buckaroo himself! He’s a physicist/brain surgeon/philosopher/martial artist/rock star. Seriously. And he travels around with his band/think tank, the Hong Kong Cavaliers. They’re all musicians and scientists and philosophers too. In point of fact, in the beginning of the movie, after Buckaroo leaves surgery and goes to drive his jet car through a mountain (using his Oscillation Overthruster, which allows him to move through solid matter by way of the 8th dimension), he and the Cavaliers sit around getting ready for a music gig in a club, which is later interrupted by gunfire, whereupon every member of the band pulls out a gun and closes ranks around Buckaroo, who just wants to find out what’s going on and talk it out. That is Buckaroo. That is how this movie works. The humor is often dry and deadpan and the cast delivers it perfectly. Like when they discover that the evil aliens on Earth are all named John (so are the good aliens, but you find that out later), or the bit about the watermelon.

On the surface it’s a ridiculous science fiction plot. Buckaroo has this amazing device that lets him access the eighth dimension, which has been used as a prison for a race of evil aliens. A small group of the evil aliens are stuck on Earth and looking for a way to free their fellows and go back to their home planet. The good aliens who trapped them there find out that Buckaroo has found out a way to access it and send down an emissary to tell Buckaroo that he needs to thwart the evil aliens’ plans or they’ll instigate a nuclear war between the US and Russia. So Buckaroo and his team have to keep the overthruster from falling into the wrong hands. It sounds so silly! And it is silly at times, but the movie plays it so well that the silliness fits in absolutely perfectly with the entire mood, while keeping the plot itself just serious enough for there to be dramatic tension. In the middle of it all, Buckaroo finds a woman who’s the spitting image of his late wife (she turns out to be his wife’s separated-at-birth twin) and she joins the group.

And oh man, the group. The Hong Kong Cavaliers are a fantastic team. There’s Rawhide, Perfect Tommy, Reno, Pinky Carruthers, New Jersey… Okay, so it’s a big boys club. Not so true in the book, but then the book has a lot of little details that aren’t in the movie. I’m not sure whether the book or movie came first. I’ve found mixed information and while Wikipedia claims the book is a novelization of the movie, I haven’t really trusted Wikipedia since I found that the article on my home town was so badly researched that they claimed two areas with different zip codes were the same geographic space with two names. So, yeah. It’s a pity that a character like Big Norse (a young woman who’s at the Banzai Institute but is unfortunately tone deaf and not in the band) isn’t in the movie, but then, the book is so chock full of detail and characters and details about the characters, it just wouldn’t be feasible for everything in it to be in the movie and keep the movie as clean as it is. Then too, if the movie came first and then the book, the book obviously expanded on things from the movie and made the Institute more inclusive, which is cool by me. I’d grumble more about the lack of female Cavaliers, but I forgive the movie, because it’s thoroughly awesome otherwise. And knowing what I know about the Institute from the book, I know that the Cavaliers are only the most public face of Buckaroo’s endeavors. The Institute itself is full of a wide variety of races, genders, nationalities, etc. But fine, that’s not in the movie. Sorry.

Really, no review can do this movie justice. How can I put into words what the end credits alone show without a single line of dialogue? This movie is pure fun.

Anyhow, Buckaroo really is the heart of the movie. I distinctly recall Andy telling me at one point that he wants to be Buckaroo Banzai when he grows up, which is perfect, since I want to be Emma Peel when I grow up. Clearly we’re both still kids, because I’m not Emma Peel and he’s not Buckaroo Banzai, but once we grow up, watch out, because we’ll be the most awesome team ever.

Now, the quotes, because I had to:
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March 31, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

March 31, 2010

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

This is a strong contender for me for greatest movie ever made.  Certainly it is in my top ten favorite movies of all time.  There’s really nothing quite like it out there.  It’s an action/adventure/comedy – somewhat like Ghostbusters I suppose.  It has a cool adventure story with aliens and the threat of nuclear annihilation and spaceships and such, but it also is played very light.  There aren’t a lot of laugh-out-loud jokes, but the movie has a sly wit.  The actors and characters seem unaware that they’re in a comedy.  They’re surrounded by strangeness, but it’s perfectly natural and part of their world.

What I love most, however, is Buckaroo himself.  I’m perfectly serious when I say that I still to this day want to grow up to be Buckaroo Banzai.  He’s a scientist/neurosurgeon/rockstar.  He’s the ultimate new renaissance man, and he’s surrounded himself with a team of comparable adventurers.  His celebrity is apparent throughout the movie.  Within the world of this movie there’s the Buckaroo Banzai comic book, the arcade game, fans camped out like deadheads outside his compound.  He has a direct line to the President of the United States, who hangs on his every word.  His fanclub (the Blue Blazers) are also a sort of worldwide militia who can be called upon to help him at any time.  It’s a little clearer in the book, but the Hong Kong Cavaliers (Buckaroos bandmates/team of fellow scientists) are a crack team who train together to be prepared for any adversity.  (A word on the book – if you like the movie you should buy it!  Earl Mac Rauch wrote both the book and the movie, and the movie really does a fantastic job capturing all the best parts of the book.  I’d say that this and Princess Bride are the two most faithful book-to-movie adaptations I’ve ever seen.  Oh, and Sin City too.)

Another part of the movie’s charm is in the wonderful direction of D. W. Richter.  The movie is one of the most re-watchable ones in our collection because it is so packed with details.  Little things like one of the evil red Lectroids sucking on a battery as though it were a juice box which you’ll likely miss the first couple times through but pick up on in future viewings.  Also, the characters are constantly stepping on each other’s lines talking over and around each other in such a way that multiple viewings are almost a necessity to catch everything.

And the cast.  Oh, man, the cast!  Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown… every single person in this movie is totally committed to their role.  John Lithgow will forever and always be John Whorfin (“W. H. O. R. F. I. N!  You got that, honey?  John – J. O. H. N!”) to me.

We’re watching the extended edition of the movie on DVD and let me say that it’s a treat.  For years and years I had an ancient VHS copy of this movie which had been watched near to death.  It was irritatingly pan and scan except for the opening and closing credits, when it was anamorphic so everybody was all elongated and tall.  So I would have accepted just a plain DVD version that had the movie in widescreen and wasn’t worn almost completely out, but instead we are treated to one of the best special edition DVDs out there.  It has a great feature where Pinkey Carruthers (Buckaroo’s biographer and a Blue Blazer regular) provides facts and trivia about the “real” Buckaroo upon who’s life this movie was based.  It has a commentary track with Earl Mac Rauch and D. W. Richter.  It has deleted scenes and a teaser for a never-produced television show based on the movie that they once shopped around.

As Amanda is extensively proving in her review this is also one of the most quotable movies of all time as well.  Practically every other line is something we quote out of context to each other all the time.

Man.  I do love this movie!

Finally: A note for tomorrow.  We’re going to stay up late tonight to watch our movie for Thursday early since our schedules are so very incompatible tomorrow.  We’ll try to have our review up in the morning before leaving for work.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment