The Film: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, 1984

The Principals:
WD Richter (Director), Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown

The Premise:
I don’t know that I can sum it up in the space allotted. There are Red Lectroids from Planet Ten and only Buckaroo Banzai and his Hong Kong Cavaliers (with an assist from some Blue Blaze Irregulars) can stop them from doing evil.

Is it Good:
Hell yeah it’s good. It’s great. It’s classic. It’s one of those movies from the 80s that actually holds up.

I saw it in a packed house at the New Beverly Cinema last night, and what a blast that was. Besides the audience being so juiced for the movie and so into every line and joke (the audience chanted along with the Red Lectroids in this exchange:

John Whorfin: Where are we going?

Red Lectroids: Planet Ten!

John Whorfin: When?

Red Lectroids: Real soon!), we were treated to a legendary Q&A beforehand. Mr. Beaks of Ain’t It Cool essentially let Peter Weller go freeform, and it was amazing. Did you know that Christopher Walken thinks Christopher Lloyd is the weirdest guy who ever lived? Did you know that Weller met Jeff Goldblum the night Goldblum lost his virginity? Did you know that Weller just finished the written exams for his PhD?

Anyway, the movie: It holds up. Earl Mac Rausch’s script is a perfect boy movie – after all, Buckaroo holds down every job that a 9 year old could possibly want. He’s a rock star, a scientist, a doctor, a spy, an adventurer, a comic book hero. The movie’s low budget keeps much of the action in the Burbank hills and some warehouses, but that only adds to the sense of play – these young actors are having a blast brandishing guns and chasing each other down warehouse corridors.

What’s most surprising in retrospect is how good-natured the film is. Buckaroo is a paragon of virtue, and non-ironically. There’s not a mean bone in the movie’s body and it’s not making fun of anything, and is having fun with everything. The film is anything but straight-faced, but that smirk hides a big dose of sincerity.

The movie’s not flawless; Richter’s pacing is off, and I think he actually underuses Lithgow, especially at the end. Lizardo/Whorfin only has one really great scene, and that’s when he’s first introduced. We needed one more set piece with him.

And the biggest flaw: there’s never been a Buckaroo Banzai and the World Crime League (even though everyone involved was signed to FIVE sequels, an option that is still in place). As an eleven year old nerd this movie haunted my dreams; friends and I would parse the film to try and find clues to what could come into play in the sequel. My big theory: Penny wasn’t a twin, she was a clone, created by the World Crime League to infiltrate the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Sadly we’ll never know.

Is it
Worth a Look:
Have you not already seen this movie? Why not? What’s wrong with you? Do you hate goodness? If you have not yet seen The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, rectify that immediately. If you’ve seen the movie but not enough times to know the correct response to the question ‘Why is there a watermelon there?,’ watch it again ASAP.

The scene where Buckaroo is being tortured took dozens upon dozens of takes, because Weller was cracking up so bad due to the over the top performances of Lithgow and Lloyd. And don’t feel bad if you have trouble following it all the first time through – Weller says the actors never figured out what it was all about either.

Cinematic Soulmates:  It Stands Alone

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