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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.36%
Average: 18.18%
Pretty Bad: 5.45%
Total Crap: 9.09%

2 reviews, 43 user ratings

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Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"See it tonight."
5 stars

In some alternate universe, Peter Weller is the biggest star in Hollywood.

This is due to two unquestionably cool sci-fi characters he played in the '80s: RoboCop and Buckaroo Banzai. Both speak with a flat affect and are the best there is at what they do. Both are saviors forged in the dork tower of science. Both exude intelligence and flickers of kindness. ("Don't be mean," Buckaroo chides a nightclub crowd. "We don't have to be mean.") RoboCop, however, spawned two sequels and myriad other media followups, whereas The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension famously promised a sequel (Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League) that never materialized.

I've often wondered if a sequel really would've been a good idea. (The screenwriter, Earl Mac Rauch, and director, W.D. Richter, collaborated on a three-issue comic book, Buckaroo Banzai in Return of the Screw, in 2007. More comics, as I write this, are slated to follow.) Part of me would've loved to see that World Crime League movie, but the mere idea of it sparks the imagination in a way that an actual sequel never could. In a way, it's good that Buckaroo Banzai never got franchised, never popped out a part two or three or four, getting worse with each new film. The way it is now, aside from the comics and the internet worship, the film stands alone, pristine in its own goofy-ass way.

The thing about Buckaroo Banzai is that, like Terry Gilliam's Brazil, it requires a precise mood you really have to be in a Banzai or a Brazil frame of mind, and when you need these films, you really need them; no other films will do. Try watching them without the specific yen to revisit them, and they come off cluttered and strained. They tend to accumulate charm and depth in one's memory they become bigger in memory than they are when you're actually watching them. Banzai and Brazil, two kinda-sorta-futuristic fantasias that absolutely could only have been made in the '80s, always surprise you scene for scene no matter how many times you've seen them before, because aside from their quotable dialogue they're too diffuse, too jammed with ideas and events, to be recollected with any sharpness. They're very consciously midnight movies, made to be assimilated by a sleep-addled or sleep-deprived mind, weaving themselves into your mental movie database as vivid blurs. You attend these parties for the atmosphere and the company, not for the narrative.

Buckaroo and his eccentric team are here pitted against the Red Lectroids, a band of evil aliens from the 8th dimension, which exists between the quarks and atoms of solid matter. A Lectroid has invaded the mind of scientist Emilio Lizardo (a gleefully hammy John Lithgow), who had tried and failed to cross into the 8th dimension before Buckaroo finally succeeded. Orson Welles is name-checked, and the U.S. president here (Ronald Lacey) is made up to look like him. Buckaroo's team picks up a despondent young woman named Penny Priddy, played by Ellen Barkin, an actress noted for radiating sexuality without trying to. Barkin is somewhat adrift in this sexless boys' club, where Buckaroo and his Hong Kong Cavaliers retire to a side room to confer no girls allowed.

Part of the weirdness of the film is that, confronted with all manners of extraterrestrial wackiness, hardly anyone even seems surprised, much less awed. Aside from Penny, there aren't many civilians in the movie; everyone has dealt with high mystical scientific phenomena before. Buckaroo Banzai coasts on its hip deadpan (the movie's best-known line, and its possible epigram, is Buckaroo's "No matter where you go ... there you are"); it's as if Jim Jarmusch had made a sci-fi comedy. (Lewis Smith, as Team Banzai member Perfect Tommy, bears some resemblance to Jarmusch.) The damn thing is immaculately cast, making it a gallery of actors who were willing to hop on for this blithely surreal ride. Jeff Goldblum has the ideal Jeff Goldblum role as a neurosurgeon who wants desperately to dress like a cowboy and be called New Jersey, and he natters on cheerfully in his highly imitable distracted manner it's great fun to watch him put the pieces together in regards to the connection between all the Johns and Grover's Mill. The gruff triumvirate of Christopher Lloyd ("John Bigbootay! Tay!"), Vincent Schiavelli and Dan Hedaya turn up as Lectroids.

Then there's Peter Weller, who, I am informed by Wikipedia, patterned his performance on "Elia Kazan, Jacques Cousteau, Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Adam Ant." Probably only Adam Ant shows up in the final result, but that's okay. Weller provides a stable, unflappable anchor for the proceedings, and the movie seems to take off from his post-New Wave demeanor. Buckaroo Banzai is like decades of escapist pulp filtered through the skeptic's shrug of the mid-'80s.

Yet of Weller's two Reagan-era heroes, Buckaroo Banzai is by far the least ironic. Go figure.

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originally posted: 03/04/08 14:25:54
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival For more in the 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/29/16 TheoB Campy, disjointed, often hilarious. Lithgow chews the scenery in the best way imaginabe. 5 stars
8/13/13 Fire With Fire No coincidence Goldblum's in this:like him,it's so hip, it disappears up it's own ass 1 stars
11/03/11 AMflxguy Avoided this film because of title. Watching confirmed - crapola. 1 stars
10/23/11 Sue Doughnym John Lithgow's performance alone makes this a gem! 4 stars
5/06/08 Neil Foster a Blue Blaze Irregular since half the attendees of a Media-West-Con went to see it 4 stars
3/18/08 kowface One of my faves! 4 stars
8/24/07 J. The "Big Trouble" reference is an urban legend. 4 stars
12/05/06 David Cohen Eh, I seen worse 3 stars
2/25/06 jeanne Brilliant - any attempt at justification would be undignified. 5 stars
2/15/06 Perry Mason I can only recommend this for late Friday nights. 3 stars
2/09/06 JM Synth I really appreciate this movie. I just wish I enjoyed it more 3 stars
8/14/04 Alien assassin I liked it !!! 5 stars
7/23/04 Lord Durvok 2 "Laugh-a whal you can, monkey boy!" 4 stars
10/19/03 Ahpsi Bitchslap review doesn't give it justice. 5 stars
9/24/03 Rob Davies The BBC have a worst film ever survey, and this was my nomination without any doubt. 1 stars
8/15/03 Bobby Film is awesome, could've had greater potential though.... 5 stars
4/15/03 reptilesni Put the watermelon in cool 5 stars
3/24/03 Jack Sommersby Simply unbearable. Too much of this, and not enough of either. 1 stars
10/27/02 Matt Neopalitano Jeff Goldblum rules in this flick. 4 stars
10/15/02 Brian A classic for anyone's video collection. 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum Ooh, ain't we cool? Ooh, we are so hip! 2 stars
4/26/02 Rockitman007 It's............................................................unique. 5 stars
4/11/02 Joan B. Geeky fun with /lots/ of background visual humor 5 stars
3/02/02 Alan Smithee It can be pretty confusing if you don't pay close attention. One of my personal faves. 5 stars
2/08/02 "Let off some steam Bennett" The most unique movie I've watched in a while. 4 stars
1/02/02 Peter Buck Greatness of concept oversadows any lack of coherent plot 5 stars
10/15/01 Butterbean Watch this one for John Lithgow, he's a scream. It's otherwise an average campy flick 3 stars
9/01/01 Paul Fassa It is intentionally comic book, tongue in cheek, and if you pay attention, coherent fantasy 5 stars
8/19/01 Howard Rosenman cool! 5 stars
8/14/01 Cody Robertson Awsome Movie i have watched alto they where a head of there time when they made the space x 5 stars
7/30/01 John Maple Syrup This far inside the head, it all looks the same. 5 stars
7/10/01 John Smallberries give us the dvd! 5 stars
7/07/01 Eisenkrote Actually Big Trouble wasn't the sequel... but its script can be found online 5 stars
7/02/01 anola-gay best movie ever to hit the silver screen 5 stars
6/25/01 Howard Rosenman Very Strange,and quite weird if looking for explanation, don't bother with this movie 4 stars
6/25/01 Orson Welles A tantalising tale well told. 5 stars
6/19/01 steve-o it is a vision from the future 5 stars
4/18/01 Del R I mentioned this movie in recent conversation and people laughed hysterically 2 stars
1/25/01 Craig this movie has something from every other cult movie in it to make it THE CULT movie of cul 5 stars
5/24/00 Watership Remember, wherever you go.. .there you are. 4 stars
2/17/00 FrankG On my top 10 list of fav movies of all time. 5 stars
11/04/99 Karahde Khan Who spawned this abomination? I love 80s movies but after five minutes of this I was bored. 1 stars
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  23-Nov-1984 (PG)



Directed by
  W.D. Richter

Written by
  Earl Mac Rauch

  Peter Weller
  John Lithgow
  Ellen Barkin
  Jeff Goldblum
  Christopher Lloyd

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