Howard the Duck

"Bad"

Howard the Duck Review


While fans and naysayers constantly complain about what he's done to a certain galaxy far, far away, few remember another beloved franchise that George Lucas adopted and then left for dead. In 1986, the writer/director/producer was riding high on the success of his Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Looking for new material to milk, he came across the beloved Marvel Comic character Howard the Duck. Hiring his buddies from American Graffiti, Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, Lucas hoped that he could jumpstart a new series starring the angry, angst-ridden anthropomorphized mallard. What he got instead was one of the worst big screen bungles ever -- and it's still quite bad some 22 years later.

When an experiment in laser beam research goes awry, a talking duck named Howard is whisked away from his home planet and down to Earth. Arriving in Cleveland, Ohio, he meets up with wannabe rock star Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson), and the two form a fragile friendship. Howard wants to get back home, and his gal pal sets up a meeting with local scientist Phil Blumburtt (Tim Robbins). He in turn contacts Dr. Walter Jenning (Jeffrey Jones) who's in charge of the laser project. As Howard tries to adjust to his new surroundings, there's a bigger problem looming. Seems our avian hero is not the only "alien" contacted by the laser. The evil Dark Overlord of the Universe has been looking for a conduit for taking over the galaxy -- and the beam might just be the answer.

Howard the Duck is the perfect example of excellent original ideas totally taken apart by half-baked Hollywood misinterpretation. Had there not been a cynical, satiric comic featuring a gruff, curmudgeonly quack as a hero, we wouldn't mind the tepid treatment here. This would be just another oddball idea that didn't quite work. No, what makes Howard the Duck the constant butt of a thousand bad movie jokes is the incongruity between the source and the resulting adaptation. Instead of using anything that made writer Steve Gerber and artist Val Mayerick's work resonate, we get the typical Tinseltown fantasy fodder, complete with oversized ambitions, undersized performances, and a reliance on special effects to supposedly save the day.

You can tell the humans are really trying here. Thompson, smack in the middle of her Back to the Future triptych fame, does the best she can with a horribly underwritten role. Dressed like Cyndi Lauper's worst nightmare, she appears lost and purposeless. Robbins doesn't offer much more, "bumbling" being his number one characteristic. Only Jeffrey Jones is given some manner of range, and that's because he becomes "possessed" by the spirit of the Dark Overlord and spends several scenes with glowing red eyes, growling. That just leaves Howard (with voice work from Chip Zien), and like any collection of random little people trapped in a terrible animal costume, our lead is awkward and unappealing.

Of course, the biggest problem here is the total lack of suspendable disbelief. The minute Howard walks into a scene, he's nothing more than a lame mascot for some Podunk MLB farm team. There's no life or energy to the figure, no real means of forgetting that he's just some person in animatronic padding. Even worse, when the Dark Overlord finally arrives in all his stop-motion splendor, the effectiveness of the design makes Howard look even lamer. When dealing with the unusual and odd, you have to have a solid foundation in credibility or everything falls apart. Lacking such integrity and any real ties to the original comic, Howard the Duck retains its shoddy cinematic legacy. It really is that bad.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Friday 1st August 1986

Budget: $35M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Fresh: 6 Rotten: 37

IMDB: 4.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Beverly Switzler, as Dr. Walter Jenning, as Phil Blumburtt, as Howard T. Duck, Dominique Davalos as Cal, Cherry Bomb, as K.C., Cherry Bomb, Liz Sagal as Ronette, Cherry Bomb, as Lieutenant Welker

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.