Socrates, that old beardy weirdy, once said that the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
Well if this is the case then let us hope that, with hindsight, the audiences and critics of 1986 have realised their mistake and become amongst the smartest people in history because clearly when they made Howard the Duck a flop, they knew absolutely nothing.
I am not going to necessarily wax rhapsodic about how this is the greatest movie of all time but one of the worst? How can it be? Tyler Perry (or Ashton Kutcher) is nowhere to be seen!
This is just your basic fish out of water (or maybe that's duck out of water) story about an alien, who also happens to be an anthropomorphic duck, who comes to earth and ends up saving the planet from large, super-imposed, stop-motion beasties all for the love of a good, very large haired, rock chick.
What I fail to understand is how audiences but mostly critics seemed to have an inability to suspend disbelief. This is just a film, a fantasy kids film, featuring a wise cracking talking duck no less and yet it seems they reviewed it like it was meant to be 2001: A Space Odyssey or worst still like the film was so offensive it might well have featured Howard being anally raped by a nazi as he flips off the pope! Are they crazy? Did they all have their humor glands removed at birth?
It's also ridiculous that they now heap praise on the likes of Batman, Spiderman and XMen when, if we are all honest with ourselves, these modern comic adaptations offer about as much in the way of message or storyline. Tarting it up with a fancy score, ominous tracking shots, A-List actors and up-to-date CGI doesn't stop the fact you are making a film about a crazy person who wears a costume going up against a crazier person who wears a costume and hoping that you shift a few more units of the varied merchandise.
Now, is the film silly? Yes very and is it embarrassing watching Tim Robbins and Lea Thompson goof and flounder around like poorly paid, end of the pier, balloon animal making entertainers? of course but is it also a good old adventure film with some fairly impressive set pieces and it's tongue wedged firmly in its cheek? Yes it is and it's almost more enjoyable now as an adult than it was when I was a kid because now I get to marvel at all the hysterical yet completely inappropriate sexual humor.
In fact I would applaud the writer director for having the balls to try and make Howard the Duck a little edgier, a little adult whilst being able to move it along at such a pace you don't realise you've gone from a seedy dive bar brawl to a jolly cops versus Ultralight plane chase in broad daylight.
It also has all the sheen and professional quality of a George Lucas production so it looks and sounds great too.
The film also has one ace in its sleeve and that is Jeffrey Jones.
Now before I go on, I do know that, very sadly, he is currently on the sex offenders registry for taking pictures of a 14 year old boy back in 2002 and I in no way condone that, I talk now purely of the man's ability as an actor and with a body of work that contains Ferris Bueller, Amadeus, Without a Clue, Beetlejuice and Who's Harry Crumb? to name just a few, he has always been and remains one of my favourite performers.
His work in Howard the Duck is incredible going from a quizzical and mild mannered scientist to a Dark Overlord in gradual and more and more comically dark ways.
My favourite being a scene where he is driving a truck and comes to a traffic jam where he bumps into the cars to get them out of the way because he has to get to the laboratory in a hurry and a state trooper comes up and says "Hey! I need to see your license, Jack!"
and in full scary, deteriorating make-up, with an eerie croaky voice and with a dead straight face Jeffrey Jones says
"I have no license… and I am not… Jack."
A lot has been made of the implied love affair between Beverley, Lea Thompson's character and Howard (what with this, her own son in Back to the Future, Andrew Dice Clay in Casual Sex and Tom fucking Cruise in all the Right Moves, Thompson has had some unfortunate screen pairings!) but again, suspend disbelief, it's all part of the fun of the movie and for what it's worth, they have fantastic chemistry better than, dare I say it, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks for example.
So what if he sort of walks and talks like Danny DeVito and has the face of Macaulay Culkin, he's a better actor than Culkin and can play the guitar as mean as Michael J Fox, no wonder the woman loves herself some Duck!
As do I and I won't apologise for it.
7.5 out of 10 cheese and quackers
Points from the Wife - 7 out of 10
This review, I am very proud and happy to say, will be appearing, in an edited form, in the New York based film 'Zine 'I Love Bad Movies' issue #4 out in June 2011. You can buy it here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ksen?ref=seller_info