Weekend Review: Buckaroo Banzai

RADAR BLAZE 1: Buckaroo, the President’s on line one, calling about is everything okay with the alien space bomb and Planet Ten, or should we just go ahead and destroy Russia?

BUCKAROO: Tell him yes on one and no on two.

Our weekend review of older films has long overlooked 1984’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension. A box-office bomb, this poker-faced pulp parody found cult success on cable and video.

Title: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension

Available from Amazon.com

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: W.D. Richter.

Writers: Earl Mac Rauch.

Cast:

Peter Weller as Buckaroo Banzai
John Lithgow as Dr. Emilio Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin
Ellen Barkin as Penny Priddy
Jeff Goldblum as New Jersey
Lewis Smith as Perfect Tommy
Christopher Lloyd as John Bigboote
Pepe Serna as Reno Nevada
Clancy Brown as Rawhide
Robert Ito as Professor Hikita
Carl Lumbly as John Parker
Vincent Schiavelli as John O’Conner
Matt Clark as the Secretary of Defense
Damon Hines as Scooter
Ronald Lacey as the President

Full Cast and Crew

The DVD features both the theatrical release and an extended version which includes a short sequence on Buckaroo’s childhood and eliminates the opening info-crawl.

Premise:

Neurosurgeon/physicist/adventurer/martial artist/rock star Buckaroo Banzai makes a scientific breakthrough which inadvertently draws him and his associates into a conflict between rival factions of Lectroids from Planet 10. Of course, the fate of the Earth is at stake.

High Point:

John Lithgow’s deranged, over-the-top performance as Dr. Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin: “Laugh-a while you can, monkey-boy!”

Low Point:

Buckaroo Banzai features many actors who became stars, and I cannot really fault their performances. However, I felt that the film could have gone off in one fewer direction and given the characters a little more heart without sacrificing its sense of irony.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6. The film parodies comic-book/pulp-hero genre adventure and therefore seems derivative. However, it features a number of original twists, including its use of the The War of the Worlds, and it features no shortage of just plain bizarre elements.

Story: 5/6 I’ve always been impressed that the film’s multiple oddities actually make perfect sense.

Effects: 4/6. The effects work reasonably well, especially given the comparatively low budget.

Acting. 5/6. The heroes give poker-faced delivery of ridiculous, clichéd dialogue—and that’s the point. Lithgow’s performance has been addressed elsewhere; his first appearance in the film may be viewed on Youtube.

Production: 4/6. The film does reasonably well on a budget, and while this may be part of its appeal to some people, I never felt that the filmmakers used cheapness to their advantage.

Emotional Response: 4/6. I find the film amusing; others cannot understand why it has such a strong following. It’s difficult to become emotionally involved with the material, however, as anything other than an elaborate joke. Banzai bears some resemblance to Restoration and Eighteenth-Century comedy (no, seriously), in that both feature inventive treatment of obvious characters and clichéd situations, viewed from an ironic distance.

Overall: 5/6. If you’re into geek culture, you likely understand why this film is funny. If you’re not, there’s a strong possibility it will leave you cold.

In total, Buckaroo Banzai receives a score of 32/42.

9 replies on “Weekend Review: Buckaroo Banzai”

  1. y42 says:

    Budget
    They had their budget cut, while in production, after they had built an actual, working rocket car.

    Think about that when you think about what they did with such a small budget.

    Also, Ernie Cline comes to mind…

  2. chad says:

    Own It On DVD
    This DVD is one of the few that I actually own. The pacing of the show tends to drag a bit in the middle, but I love the one-liners and, as the reviewer said, the "inventive treatment of obvious characters and clichéd situations, viewed from an ironic distance".

    Definitely worth watching if you’ve never seen it. Too bad they never came out with the sequel advertised at the end of the movie.

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    • lunadude says:

      Re: Own It On DVD

      …Too bad they never came out with the sequel advertised at the end of the movie.

      The script was reworked and became Big Trouble in Little China.

      • Timeshredder says:

        Re: Own It On DVD

        …Too bad they never came out with the sequel advertised at the end of the movie.

        The script was reworked and became Big Trouble in Little China.

        Widely repeated, but according to more than once source, an urban legend.

  3. Trekkie says:

    I don’t know why….
    ….but for some reason the ending credits/music of this movie are my all time favorite. I’ll watch em if I’m flipping channels, whatever. I’ll watch the whole movie on WGN or TBS just to watch the credits even though I own it on DVD.

    • smeep says:

      Re: I don’t know why….

      ….but for some reason the ending credits/music of this movie are my all time favorite. I’ll watch em if I’m flipping channels, whatever. I’ll watch the whole movie on WGN or TBS just to watch the credits even though I own it on DVD.

      I love that tune as well as this one:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLnPNUbjdzQ

      At least, the start of it, before he stops when he somehow hears Penny Priddy crying.

    • ViperDriver says:

      Re: I don’t know why….

      ….but for some reason the ending credits/music of this movie are my all time favorite. I’ll watch em if I’m flipping channels, whatever. I’ll watch the whole movie on WGN or TBS just to watch the credits even though I own it on DVD.

      No matter how many times I watch those end credits, I always expect to see the Jet Car come blasting out of the graffiti at the end…and am disappointed when it doesn’t. :-)

      "Good. What is a truck?"

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