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The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (W.D. Richter) 1984   

    I donít really understand the fascination with bad sci-fi films that most people seem to have, so Iíll say that my review of Buckaroo Banzai, which attempts to parody them, is not exactly coming from a guy that likes this sort of thing to begin with. The film starts out rather incoherently with the titular protagonist (Peter Weller) who seems to be some sort of Renaissance man. As a doctor/crime fighter/comic book hero/rock star he seems to embody the person that so many losers want to be, so Iím not sure if Wellerís relatively vacuous performance is supposed to be part of the joke, telling them that itís not all that theyíve cracked it up to be. You get the impression that writer/director Richter thinks this entire enterprise of hero worship is rather inane, so it really feels a bit pointless that he spends so much time debunking it. The other distressing thing is that the parody is rendered basically ineffectual since there are few moments that seem to have required the creative thought that the hokey sci-fi stories that itís sending up have in spades. This film is content to make fun of the state of New Jersey and foreign accents and allow its castís overacting to do the rest, but it doesnít nearly work.     

    Only a few moments in the movie even struck me as chuckle-worthy, and even those seemed terribly isolated, instead of part of something funnier. For all of the filmís implied zaniness and attempts to achieve a semblance of lunacy thereís next to no feeling that anything could happen. The production values are generally shoddy, but not so shoddy that they become in any way funny. Everybody gets so worked up in the movie that you wish it offered something more exciting than the ho-hum procession of gun chases that it turns into. Frankly, I think that famous debacle Howard the Duck is a much better movie along these terms. Thereís nothing here that really makes the film feel ďfunĒ to me, though the filmís cult status suggests there are those that this film will appeal to immensely. Thereís little here that really distinguishes the filmmaking, which is rather pedestrian. The strongest aspect of the film is probably decent dialogue in the script, but so many of my problems with the film stem from that same source. The amount of vigor that the supporting actors throw into their performances suggests they saw something great here, but I simply donít see it. To me, Buckaroo Banzai seems stranded in an alternate dimension where films donít need to have a solid perspective to exist. 

* 1/2 


Jeremy Heilman