Reviews: Howard The Duck

Industrial Light and Magic takes a vacation

One has to wonder what executive producer George Lucas was thinking when he greenlit this idea. "Let's make a movie about an anthropomorphic duck sent into Cleveland by some type of interdimensional laser beam who ends up saving the day against a cosmic abomination." Already, just that sentence alone makes one think "what the hell?", but it doesn't end there. Pretty much every facet of the film seems determined to go further and further over the top but somewhere along the way, they just lost their sense of fun.

Many of the problems stem from the characters. Howard is a sardonic wisecracker, but rather than funny, he comes across as intensely unlikable within minutes. He's just not a nice person at all. Lea Thompson as Beverly is the usual sort of shrill damsel in distress, but has the added bonus of seeming way too sweet and innocent to be in an eighties punk band. Tim Robbins plays perhaps the most irritating portrayal of a geek to hit the silver screen... and breaks suspension of disbelief with the revelation that he's dating one of Beverly's attractive, "desperate" band mates.

But it's not the first time suspension of disbelief will be broken. Oh, no. Whether it's the disturbing sexual teasing between Howard and Beverly or the police simultaneously being the most incompetent and corrupt force in the universe, there's plenty of level breakers all around. Then there are the special effects... according to the credits, Industrial Light and Magic did them, but that's really hard to believe. Certainly one giant step back from Star Wars.

All of this sounds like great fun for a camp lover, but the film doesn't even quite get that right. It introduces all these goofy concepts, but plays them much too seriously. It's as though they forgot they're making a live action film about an anthropomorphic duck. The result is a dour experience, a total downer from start to finish.

The plot (such as it is) plods around without direction and just kind of dies around the fifty minute mark. From there, it's nearly an hour of chase scenes (including the single worst flight sequence ever) and embarrassing special effects. Stupidity drenches the whole production, but not that fun kind. Just the brain cell killing type. Every second of it feels like apoptosis in your noggin. This is a film only bad movie lovers could ever enjoy.