The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai - Across the 8th Dimension! is a movie I desperately want to like more than I actually do. I well remember seeing this clever little science fiction adventure flick when it hit theaters in the 80's, playing one of the best art houses in the city I was centered around at the time. It's got all the elements of a wacky adventure, perfectly designed for my wheelhouse. Sadly it falls short in a number of ways despite its best elements.
The pulp roots of this movie are all too evident. Peter Weller is a dandy actor portraying a modern "Renaissance Man" in this story, a sensitive noble genius expert in medicine, physics, and the secrets of a woman's heart. Weller brings a twinkle to the part, a gleam which helps sell what could be a load of crap for a lesser talent. This is a Doc Savage for the then modern and self-aware hip world of the MTV generation. It's got all the parts right, and Weller almost pulls it off.
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It's a whirlwind of activity from that point on, and not all of the furious motion pays off especially well. A reasonably sexy Ellen Barkin shows up as a sort of love interest for Banzai but seems hard pressed to find a role in the plot save as obligatory damsel in distress. There's much jumping and mugging and lots of overly wrought ironic dialogue for everyone. But sadly it doesn't necessarily add up to an engaging adventure, at least not as good a ruckus as it might've been.
The basic problem with this movie is it's too aware of itself for its own good. The smarmy not-so-subtle commentary on then modern life is too heavy handed to be as incisive as the creators desire. The irony drips, but not always where they'd like and often in way too much quantity. The movie is hurt too by a limited budget which saddles it with local discovered real-world sets that don't really convince. Running around peculiar factories was de rigueur in 80's movies and there's plenty of that here.
I want to like Buckaroo Banzai. I really do, but sadly I find it an uneven distraction at best.