Starring: Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown, Dan Hedaya
Plot: Rocket scientist Buckaroo Banzai perfects a device that allows one to travel through solid matter. Attaching his ‘Oscillation Overthruster’ to his jet car, Banzai drives through a mountain to prove his theory, unwittingly entering another dimension and picking up an unexpected stowaway.
Rarely did genre films come along in the early 1980’s that were so well realised, so full of insane invention and bristling with so many ideas & possibilities, that were so god damn odd yet fiercely original, the little films that could. The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension for me was one of those films that ticked all those boxes.
Try and explain the premise of Buckaroo Banzai to someone and you might struggle. Not the easiest of films to big up and convince someone of watching, Buckaroo Banzai’s storyline is gloriously daft, for example, all of the Alien Lectroids go by the name of John as part of their disguise because what’s more human than the name John right?! Nothing suspect to see here humans! Banzai is a wonderfully overblown comic-book pastiche teeming with pop-culture and science references all the while with its tongue jammed firmly in its cheek. It would be easy to dismiss it as a trashy piece of b-movie sci-fi and to misrepresent it in that respect would not do it justice in the slightest. It is complex, strongly written, brilliantly performed, knows exactly what it is trying to be and isn’t afraid to take risks to achieve it even if the audience are initially left out in the cold as to the richly worked out backstory for our hero and his cohorts the first time round, you’ll pay more attention and notice more things the second time you view, it really is a gift that keeps on giving on repeated viewings. The 80’s hipness on display may raise a titter now although you could probably spot any one of the Hong Kong Cavillers in the more fashionable parts of Shoreditch these days and I defy anyone to not raise a grin during the hipper than hip end credits montage in the concrete L.A flood channels, seriously, if you haven’t even seen the film, go on YouTube type in Buckaroo Banzai end credits and you’ll probably be hooked and won’t quite know why.
Buckaroo Banzai’s eclectic cast suit the movie perfectly. From Peter Weller’s effortlessly cool & hip Banzai, making bow ties cool long before Matt Smith ever did. Part scientist, part rock-star, all win! He is an 80’s icon that never got his fair billing in my humble opinion and shines brilliantly here. Gloriously film stealing support comes from a frantically scenery chewing turn by John Lithgow as Dr Lizardo/John Whorfin, the diabolical alien overlord of the Red Lectroids and an able stooge turn from Christopher Lloyd as Red Lectroid John Bigbooté who’s onscreen chemistry with Lithgow is a constant high point of the film, particularly in Lizardo’s comical mispronunciation of his underling as John Bigbooty. Throw in some able support from 80’s genre stalwarts such as Ellen Barkin, Clancy Brown & Jeff Goldblum and you’ve got yourself a winner.
The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension is a perfect slice of intelligently written 80’s sci-fi that is effortlessly cool, wonderfully humorous and will leave you wanting more, alas, with the much touted Kevin Smith backed Buckaroo Banzai TV show now looking unlikely, this may be all we get of Buckaroo and The Hong Kong Cavaliers but when it was this well realised, I can live with that.