The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) W.D. Richter

Production Budget: $12 million

Gross: $6 million

I don’t know why it took so long for me to get to Buckaroo Banzai seeing as how this seems to be what my topic was made for.  This was a film that could not find an audience during its box office release but since then has developed a strong cult following.  Its box office failure has not stopped people from loving it and keeping it alive to other media such as comic books.

Banzai is a kind of satire/comedy of pulp sci fi.  The protagonist, Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller), is a kind of jack-of-all trades who does brain surgery one minute, then pilots a rocket car to another dimension, then does a concert with his rock band.  During his rocket car test, he goes to the 8th dimension and the evil 8th dimension alien Lizardo (John Lithgow) wants that technology to go back to his home to conquer it.  Banzai has to stop Lizardo before full scale war errupts between Earth and the 8th dimension.

As much as I hate to write this (since I know this will kill my nerd rep) I have to be honest and say I did not love Buckaroo Banzai as much as I probably should have.  I still liked it, however this was not the cult classic that was probably built up to me by other people.  There are things which didn’t quite work for me and things that didn’t exactly meet with my expectations.

One of the people I follow on the Internet brought this point up and I’m surprised I didn’t consider it till now.  As much as I love Peter Weller (cause he is the motherfuckin‘ man!) I personally don’t see him as a Buckaroo Banzai.  I see Banzai as like a more badass version of Ferris Bueller or I guess more appropriate would be a Bruce Campbell.  We are talking about a guy so charasmatic and badass that people gravitate around him hoping that some of his cool will rub off on them.  Peter Weller is too dead pan and seemingly bored with everything that is going on.  Now someone tried to argue that Banzai has done so many cool things that Weller plays it right that he would be kind of ho hum at that point because to him, the extraordinary has become ordinary.  But I still say that when you portray the guy as having fan clubs and mobs of people wanting to just hang out with him, it has to be because he has a super cool personality and Weller does not exude that.

Speaking of quibbles about the cast let’s talk about John Lithgow.  Oh no, I don’t have a problem with John Lithgow.  In fact, I feel quite the opposiite; John Lithgow is awesome.  My problem is I wanted more of him.  We see him in the beginning, then he disappears for the majority of the movie, and stumbles back on for the final action scene.  The other aliens‘ roles needed to be cut back in order so we get more Lithgow goodness.

And I hate to pile things on but the story is not as tight as I’d like it to be.  The middle of the movie is not as interesting as the bookends when a lot of stuff is happening and it is more crazy.  I will also parrot some of the other critics in saying I wish they put more in the movie to make Buckaroo more of a badass.  I realize it is a hard balancing act because you don’t want to make your villains seem feeble compare to your hero but I didn’t feel like it was enough of a showcase of his supposed many talents.

I know I spent a lot of time complaining about things I didn’t like but in this instance it is not because I hated it.  These are complaints of someone who liked it  but there were many minor things that kept me from loving it.  But despite all that I would still recommend that people go see this movie.  There is a good reason why this movie has a strong cult following and even though I didn’t love it as much as everyone else, I think everyone should try it.  It is harder to judge someone’s tastes in satire and this kind of ‘out there‘ crazy movie so I would just have you give it a shot.

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