The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension - Blu-ray Review

'The surreal nature of the film works well much more often than not, regularly making up for the narrative weaknesses'.

Perhaps the closest relative of The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension is 1986's Big Trouble In Little China, co-written by Buckaroo Banzai director W. D. Richter, sharing as both films do a relentlessly barmy tone and a hip, surreal approach to often complex mythology. But where Richter's directorial effort unfortunately falls down more often than in the later film is in its ability to rein in the inherent outlandishness enough to tell a solid and worthwhile story.

Richter lays his cards on the table relatively clearly within Buckaroo Banzai's opening act, introducing Peter Weller's titular hero first as a gifted neuroscientist, then as a genius physicist who cracks interdimensional travel, and finally as a successful rock star. The director arguably takes the same approach to the entire film as he does to his main character, wanting to make it as many different things as he can all at once.

Perhaps inevitably, this leaves Buckaroo Banzai never fully realising its potential in any area. The plot is told in scattershot fashion, leaping between several ideas in the first half before settling on a somewhat generic alien invasion story in the second. There are too many characters here, with some never becoming more than bizarre background figures. John Lithgow's antagonistic Dr. Emilio Lizardo is a brilliantly demented role into which the actor can gleefully sink his teeth, but disappointingly becomes absent after the opening act for the best part of an hour before returning suddenly in the final act. The least well developed thread here, however, is that of Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin), whose back story is only elaborated upon in dribs and drabs when Richter has a spare moment, before becoming nothing more than a clich├ęd damsel in distress in a paper thin romantic subplot by Buckaroo Banzai's climax.

Richter's film is nonetheless enjoyable, often thanks to its comprehensively strong cast featuring such reliable names as Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum and Clancy Brown. Weller too is superb in the lead, carrying off the polymath protagonist with the right combination of machismo, intelligence and effortless cool. That the surreal nature of the film works well much more often than not, regularly making up for the narrative weaknesses, is often thanks to the commitment and ability of those playing out such eccentric material.

Buckaroo Banzai is the kind of film that feels as though it was ready made to become cult cinema, something which it has seemingly succeeded in doing since its release just over thirty years ago. But whilst Richter's film is regularly entertaining, the fact that it has largely been overshadowed by more successful genre crossover films of the 1980s essentially feels justified.




The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension is released on UK Blu-ray on Monday 20th July 2015.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

2 comments:

  1. Man, I love Peter Weller. I wish he was more lauded for his works. His performance in Naked Lunch is so stellar. Oh, and RoboCop.... RoboCop forever.

    Anyways, this is another good review! I've really enjoyed your site. You got yourself another fan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Taylor, glad you enjoyed the review. I thought Weller was great here and as RoboCop, but this actually made me realise how little else of his work I've seen. I think the only other one of his films I've seen him in is Star Trek Into Darkness, and I thought he was excellent in that too. Definitely an actor you don't seem to hear much about despite his body of work. I'm definitely going to seek out more of his films after enjoying him as Buckaroo Banzai.

      Delete