Movie News & Reviews

'Howard the Duck' not nearly as good as you thought

Kids' brains don't just lie to their parents, they lie to themselves. Hot dogs taste great!

They wouldn't be Mom and Dad unless they knew what they were doing! Life's great and I'll be happy forever!

One of the lies my undeveloped brain told me was 1986's Howard the Duck was endlessly entertaining. In my ongoing efforts to smash that little boy's delusions to bits, I thought it was time to give Howard another try.

Zapped from his planet to ours by an experiment gone awry, Howard the Duck (voiced by Chip Zien) just wants to get home. Struggling musician Lea Thompson introduces him to Jeffrey Jones, the scientist who started this whole mess, but a second malfunction fills Jones with another alien lifeform: a dark overlord of the universe who intends to destroy everything on Earth.

I used to watch Howard the Duck relentlessly, which should tell you something about how smart your little angels really are and the futility of your efforts to protect them. It also blows a great big hole through Tipper Gore's theory that trash culture influences youth for the worse. You don't see me marrying my life-sized animatronic Donald Duck. We're settling for a domestic partnership.

Howard the Duck's quiet opening fooled me into thinking the film's detractors were too harsh. Then its portal to hell opened into 1980s America.

The foremost signifier of its place in time are the gratuitous, MTV-inspired shots of Thompson's band rocking out with trend-chasing enthusiasm. A little more subtle, but unmistakably '80s, is the nonstop panicked screaming played for laughs.

I can only guess those extras were running away from this movie. Howard isn't exactly terrifying: He's 3 feet tall and his face is capable of as much emotion as a stoned Chuck E. Cheese.

Alternately, they may have been fleeing Howard's "fowl" dialogue (heh heh), which sounds ripped straight out of Snappy Comebacks for Atrocious Cinematic Miscalculations. Bad puns, lame repartee, and duckrageous antics (for the love of God someone stop me) make the first hour just short of insufferable.

For a brief moment, Jones steals the show as an all-powerful alien trapped in a man's body. Looking like a sweaty Sith lord, he displays his might by declaring war on condiments. His comic moment in the sun is swiftly ruined by a patience-cracking 40-minute climax powered by an unstoppable '80s drum machine.

I've seen plenty of worse movies, but few on this scale. Loud, explosion-heavy, and stuffed with insufferable characters, Howard the Duck may have been a childhood favorite of Michael Bay too.

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com

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