People can talk about and make fun of a modern day Hollywood disaster like The Lone Ranger all they want, but it’s just a flop wannabe. Before it was even a redundant, half assed, lazy, money grabbing glint in a studio executive’s eye, there was one shit bomb of such legend, pretty much the only thing it’s famous for today, almost three decades after it first underwhelmed audiences, is it’s shit bombery. Yes people, I watched Howard the Duck. And you know what, its reputation is kind of undeserved.
That is by no means me saying it’s a good movie. Howard the Duck is not a good movie. It’s just not nearly as bad as its almost mythical status would have you believe. By the time George Lucas got involved as a producer of Howard the Duck, the famed writer, director, producer and neck waddle connoisseur was riding high on three Star Warses and two Indian Jonses. So why would anyone doubt the potential when he proposed making a live action adaptation of a little known comic book foul mouthed duck?
Within the first couple of minutes, we meet Howard at home on his duck populated planet before he’s beamed to Earth via a pretty cheap looking special effect. Once on Earth, he meets Lea Thompson after we see her playing a gig with her band, which leads to two observations about that time period. In the mid-eighties a lot of movies involved characters in dangerous punk bands that played the most bubble gum of non threatening pop. Also in the mid-eighties, film making had access to possibly the smokingly hottest trio of smoking hot “girls next door”, Lea Thomspon, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates.
Back to the plot. Howard meets Lea Thompson, who in turn introduces him to her scientist mate play by Tim Robbins. Robbins reckons he knows how Howard ended up on Earth and takes him to his lab where we meet his boss, played by Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (I could look up the actor’s name, but I think describing him as “Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” will make more sense to more people than his real name). Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off becomes a bad guy and Howard, Lea Thompson and Tim Robbins have to defeat him in their efforts to send Howard home.
The story is fine, nothing special, but there are plenty of worse ones out there. The effects are a let down at times, especially when you consider that Lucas was involved, but they’re not the worst of the time either. And while Howard never seems like more than a little dude in a duck costume, the puppetry involved with his facial expressions and eyes are really expressive and impressive. I’m not gonna rush to watch Howard the Duck again anytime soon, and I can understand why it wasn’t a massive hit at the time, but I also don’t think it deserves its rep as one of the patron saints of film flops. And say what you will about the rest of this movie, but the song Thompson sings at the end is an insanely catchy toe tapper that’s been stuck in my head for days.
Budget $37million / U.S Box Office $37.9million
Worst Screenplay – Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz
Worst Visual Effects – Industrial Light and Magic
Instead of Howard the Duck, watch Tim Robbins be awesome The Hudsucker Proxy