Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, The (1984): Richter’s Off the Wall Tale, Starring Peter Weller

Combining elements of sci-fi, action-adventure and spoof comedy, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eight Dimension is directed by W.D. Richter, based on the pulp fiction of Earl Mac Rausch.

Over the years, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” has acquired a cult status upon getting release on video.  Initially, though, the movie was slapped with mixed-to-negative reviews and did not do well theatrically.  Some blamed the timing of its release, during the 1984 Summer Olympics, other blamed the “wrong” marketing campaign, and still others held that it was simply not suitable for mainstream audiences.

In this off-the-wall tale, Peter Weller plays the eponymous lead, Buckaroo Banzai, the son of an American mother and Japanese father who possesses the skills of a physicist, neurosurgeon, martial arts master, secret agent, and rock star who travels with his band, named  the Hong Kong Cavaliers.

In the first scene, Buckaroo is driving his car through a mountain to test his new invention, the Oscillation Overthruster. However, a race of boorish aliens, the Red Lectroids have been waiting for such an item, as they need it to return to the distant planet they call home.

John Lithgow plays one of Buckaroo’s arch-enemies, Dr. Emilio Lizardo, a man possessed by the Red Lectroids.  Years back, he tried but failed to create a similar device. Now escaped from an insane asylum, he is back at work with the Lectroids on a plan to control the world.

The structurally messy film defies conventional plot, or coherent story, but you can’t fault it not for lacking ideas or characters or objects, all eccentric, of course.

There are Rastafarian aliens, unscheduled travel between dimensions, even odd watermelons.

Like most cult films, the film contains witty and quotable one-liners, such as “No matter where you go, there you are.”  There are also visual and sound gags, some of which are funny and entertaining.

It helps that the ensemble includes eccentric character actors, such as Jeff Goldblum, as New Jersey, a Cavalier with a snappy cowboy outfit, and the sexy Ellen Barkin as Penny Priddy, the twin sister of Buckaroo’s late wife, Christopher Lloyd, who in the following year made a strong impression in “Back to the Future.”

 

End Note

The film is also known as “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eight Dimension,” or simply as “Buckaroo Banzai.”

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