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USA 1986
Directed by
Willard Huyck
106 minutes
Rated PG

0 stars

Howard The Duck

It is hard to believe that a post-Star Wars George Lucas, who had sunk $50-million into the Skywalker Ranch complex, ever thought that this truly awful live-action movie was going to be a money-spinner that would extract him from his financial woes (it didn’t and he was forced to start selling off assets to stay afloat. His friend, Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm's newly-launched CGI animation division eventually morphing it into Pixar Animation Studios).

Inspired by the Marvel Comics characters, Howard the Duck and Beverly Switzler, the story is inane to say the least (apparently the comics have some merit as such but I can't confirm that). It involves the arrival on Earth from a planet whose occupants are just like people except they are ducks, of Howard (voiced by Chip Zien) who soon meets Beverley (Lea Thompson), a singer in a struggling pop band and together they…take my word for, it’s not worth worrying about the story. Inanity has never stopped Hollywood nor has got in the way of box office success but on release this effort tanked big time.

If the core idea of the film is no great shakes, the mind-numbingly awful script by director Huyck (who wrote Lucas’s 1973 breakout hit American Graffiti) and his wife, Gloria Katz, ensure that it was never going to fly. If you reckon that pun was bad it's well suited to this film whose attempts at humour result in lines like “That’s it, no more Mr Nice Duck” and having Howard described as a master of “quack-fu”, not to mention the grotesque placing of Beverley and Howard together in a between-the-sheets scene. Then, surprisingly, given the money thrown at it, the movie never manages to look less than tacky (apparently Lucas spent some US$2m on duck suits alone and they never look more convincing than a mascot at pre-football match entertainment).

Jeffrey Jones, an actor oft-seen in support roles in many a mainstream movie (he played Emperor Joseph II in Amadeus, 1984), gives one of the most memorable performance of his career as scientist, Dr Jenning, and Lea Thompson, best-known from the Back To The Future trilogy, is pretty good, considering she playing opposite a duck suit. The other name of note, Tim Robbins, managed to live down his appearance as Beverley's wacky friend, Phil, to go on to infinitely better things.

Director Huyck has not helmed another film since. Apparently in certain quarters this is much-admired because of its awfulness but all that means is that there are some truly desperate people out there.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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