Howard the Duck (released in the Summer of 1986, directed by Willard Huyck and produced by George Lucas, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Steve Gerber) has been considered by many to be one the worst films ever made. So how is it that I decided to review it in the Summer of 2011?
Well, I was shopping at Target for this and that, and I saw this on their shelf of $5 DVDs. Seeing as it's my birthday tomorrow, and I wanted to kick it off with some whimsy, I said what the heck and tossed it into my shopping basket. Unable to wait for the clock to hit midnight, I opened up the package after dinner, pulled out the DVD and popped it into the machine to give it a spin.
A little over two hours later, and here I am penning my review. Was it truly as bad as some people have said? Or did it somehow improve over time, like a bottle of fine aged wine? Well, I for one think that time has been good to this little flick - leaving it rolling around on my palate maybe not like a bottle of aged wine, but at least like a tasty Chinese century egg.
The movie has a PG rating, which surprised me given some of the raunch that we the viewer are treated to in the film's opening sequence. I donno, maybe Rated PG just meant something different back in 1986 than it seems to mean now, but I'm three times as old as I was back then so I should be able to handle it, right? Despite the initial cognitively dissonant feeling imparted by the movie's first five minutes or so, I soon found myself suspending my disbelief and yielding to the film's premise of an anthropomorphic duck from another dimension just trying to make his way in Cleveland, OH.
Lea Thompson (hot off of Back to the Future fame) plays Beverly, the female lead and Howard's love interest, with a dedication to character and earnestness that I find astounding given she's playing opposite a talking duck. Tim Robbins (almost two decades away yet from his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Mystic River) portrays Phil, the film's comic relief and Howard's sidekick, with a certain chutzpah you could only find on an episode of Mystery Science Theater.
Howard's hero's journey has him and his companions facing off against all manner of challenges ranging from mundane and almost obligatory 1980s action-adventure flick run of the mill thugs to his need to find a job and earn some scratch to Cthulhu-esque evil overlords from Outer Space. With his mastery of the martial art of Quack Fu and a certain world weary charm, Howard largely triumphs over the various obstacles he faces in his quest to get back home. Despite these victories, Howard doesn't manage to actually get back home, deciding to sacrifice his ticket home to save our planet like a true and noble hero. He does, however, manage to get the girl in the end, so no harm, no fowl.
Other than an interminably long and overdrawn car/ultralight chase sequence leading up to the story's climax, I actually didn't find the movie to be as rotten an egg as its been made out to be. I enjoyed it in much the same way that I enjoyed the Goonies and Big Trouble in Little China, two other films of the mid to late 80s. While the film lacked the existential gravitas of the comic book that it was based upon (yes, I consider Steve Gerber's work on the comic book to be possessed of gravitas, such as it is for existential satire, and recommend you go read it if you can), it managed to eke out and evoke a certain charm reflective of the cinematic zeitgeist of the mid to late 80s.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Quacks