Dr. Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller, RoboCop) is a full-time brain surgeon and part-time inventor who spends his spare time playing the guitar in a rock band (“The Hong Kong Cavaliers”). When Banzai creates an artifact that opens the door to another dimension, a fellow scientist, Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow, The World According to Garp), comes up with a completely crazy plan to steal Banzai’s neat invention.
Reaction & Thoughts
“Lithium is no longer available on credit.”
A film critic once described The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension “as though the film was the 27th installment in an ongoing serial and you’d missed the previous 26.” It’s that confusing! But there’s something endearing about how director W. D. Richter (Big Trouble in Little China) and writer Earl Mac Rauch (New York, New York) insist on muddling things up — the witty dialogue and kooky characters make up for the fact that you don’t know what’s going on half the time.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension proposes that technology is evolving faster than humans. The film warns us that there’ll be hell to pay if we allow science to get ahead of us. It’s all done in an absurdist style, but make no mistake, tech-anxiety is an integral part of the movie. It’s also noteworthy that this dopey sci-fi saga has a blast playing with people’s expectations.
In most movies, scientists are portrayed as nerdy introverts. Peter Weller’s Buckaroo Banzai is not only the smartest person in the room, but also the coolest. He is charming, debonair and darn smart. Banzai has a big heart too — he puts people before anything else, pretty much obliterating the stereotypical image of the scientist as a cold fish. Banzai also makes science, specifically physics, look like something that could be a lot of fun. All in all, Banzai is a great role model for kids who excel at math and science!
Above all, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai aims to tickle the audience. The movie not only has a fun time re-shuffling genre clichés, but also mocking everything from government institutions to silly conspiracy theories. For example, according to the movie, Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast of the book War of the Worlds, which convinced many people that a Martian invasion was taking place, wasn’t a hoax after all!
The film’s look is purposely scrappy and messy. The loopy optical and make-up effects are a wink to the B-movies of yesterday. The sets are appropriately funky. Celebrated Oscar-winning cameraman Fred J. Koenekamp’s (Patton and The Towering Inferno) cinematography is quite stylish, though. The movie looks great! Michael Boddicker’s (The Adventures of Milo and Otis) fabulous electronic music is irresistible too.
The movie should have gotten an award for best acting ensemble. Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love) plays Penny Priddy, Jeff Goldblum (The Fly) plays New Jersey, Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) plays John Bigboote, Vincent Schiavelli (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) plays John O’Connor, Dan Hedaya (Blood Simple) plays John Gomez and Lewis Smith (The Heavenly Kid) plays Perfect Tommy. They all seem to be having a good time! P.S. Jamie Lee Curtis (John Carpenter’s Halloween) appears as Banzai’s mom in the deleted prologue, which was restored for the DVD (R1) Special Edition.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
W. D. Richter’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension had the makings of a long-running franchise, but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be — sadly, the film didn’t perform well at the box office. We never stop complaining about Hollywood’s seemingly endless sequels and reboots, yet when a truly original piece of work comes along, audiences don’t embrace it. The movie is not perfect, but its idiosyncrasies are hard to resist. Highly recommended! Color, 102 minutes, Rated PG.