Saturday, December 13, 2014

Howard the Duck (1986)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Shortly after digital cable was installed in my house last week, I began flipping through the free On Demand stuff. I found Howard the Duck. Now, some movies I see because I want to. Others, I see because others lock me in a room and force me to watch them. Then, there are movies that I just end up watching. Howard the duck is part of the third category. I had seen the movie many, many years ago and vaguely recalled the plot details. I sort of remember liking the movie overall, but disliking a few parts. I decided to give it a second shot, mostly because, as I said, it was free.

The movie is about an evolved duck named, of all things, Howard T. Duck. He lives in Marshington, D.C., on a planet remarkably like Earth. He has an apartment, likes cigars and reads Playduck. Just as he’s settling in for the night, he apartment begins to rattle. He’s ripped out of his building and across the galaxy to our planet. He lands in the middle of Cleveland only to find two guys harassing a woman. As any gentleman would do, Howard steps in and uses his massive Quack Fu skills to save the day.

Grateful, the woman takes him in. She’s the lead singer of a band called the Cherry Bombs and goes by Beverly Switzler. (For those that think she looks a bit familiar, she’s played by Lea Thompson.) Howard tells her of his plight and, despite wanting to go home, knows he’ll have to blend in until he can figure out how he can do that. The thing is that she knows someone who actually knows the guy responsible for bringing Howard to Earth.

Doctor Walter Jenning is more than happy to send Howard back. There’s just one slight problem. Before Howard can get to the lab, there’s a slight accident in which Dr. Jenning is taken over by an Evil Overlord From the Edge of the Universe. The Evil Overlord From the Edge of the Universe is intent on bringing his Evil Overlord friends to rule Earth and they need human hosts to survive in our environment. Howard must stop the possessed Jenning from allowing Evil Overlords to possess Beverly.

Now, Howard the Duck wasn’t a bad movie. It just had a few issues. The one thing kept bothering me about the movie was the obvious duck puns, such as the aforementioned Marshington. The movie doesn’t rely on it, but does occasionally beat you over the head with it. There’s even some duck nudity that might be hard to explain to a small child.

Another thing that kept bothering me was how everyone was scared of Howard. I’m sorry, but a duck just isn’t that scary. He’s three feet tall and talks. Big deal. Get used to it. He’s going to be around for a while. There are a few passersby that don’t take him seriously. This, I can understand. This would even be my reaction. You see something like Howard and think it’s a guy in a duck costume. (Yes, I know. It is actually several guys taking turns in a duck costume, but you get my point.)

The movie was based on some comics done by Steve Gerber. I’ve never seen the comics, but I’d like to look into them. I don’t think the movie was translated that well. It’s not the acting, exactly, nor is it the fact that the movie is dated. I don’t think it did that well in its own time. I think it’s just that the movie didn’t seem to take itself seriously enough to be a serious contender as a movie.

For instance, none of the science is really explained. You’re basically told that there’s this big ray gun that can suck people off of far-distant planets for no good reason and can even send them back. It can also suck Evil Overlords From the Edge of the Universe and put them inside of a person. You just have to accept this. There’s nothing about transdimensional rifts or space-time anomalies.

It is an interesting story, which opens with a narrator saying that given an infinite universe, an infinite variety of planets exist. Had the movie been done well, I could have seen it being made into a TV show or at least spawning a few sequels. The trouble is that it’s kind of hard to take the duck costume that seriously. It looks unrealistic to the point of being distracting.

Overall, the movie is decent if you don’t take it that seriously. I can’t give it more than three stars, though.

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