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 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! However, there’s something endearing about how director W. D. Richter (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and writer Earl Mac Rauch (A Stranger Is Watching) insist on muddling things up. This droll, geeky, dopey movie is just too cool for words! The witty dialogue and the charming characters make up for the fact that you don’t know what’s going on half of 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 the movie has fun playing with genre tropes.
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 has a confident walk and dresses like a movie star. Banzai is charming, debonair and darn smart. He 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!
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension aims to tickle the audience. The movie not only has a great time re-shuffling genre tropes and clichés, but also poking fun at everything from politicians and government institutions to silly conspiracy theories (according to the movie, Orson Welles’s legendary 1938 radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds wasn’t a hoax!).
The look of the film is purposely shoddy. The low-rent visual and make-up effects are a wink to the B-movies of yesterday. The sets are appropriately funky. Oscar-winning cameraman Fred J. Koenekamp’s (The Towering Inferno and Islands in the Stream) cinematography is quite stylish, though. The movie looks great! Michael Boddicker’s (White Water Summer) 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 blast! P.S. Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) appears as Buckaroo’s mom in the deleted prologue, which was restored for the DVD (R1) Special Edition.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
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. The movie didn’t perform well at the box office. We moviegoers are illogical creatures. We never stop complaining about Hollywood’s endless sequels and reboots, yet when a truly original piece of work comes along, audiences don’t embrace it. The film is not perfect, but its idiosyncrasies are hard to resist. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai is now enjoying a well-deserved reputation as a cult classic, a small victory for the people who loved it from the get-go.