- Movie Rating -

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

| August 15, 1984

Walking into The Adventure of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension sort of requires you to meet it halfway.  It seems to be written that way.  It feels like you’ve been dumped in the middle of Chapter 12 of an ongoing serial that has already introduced most of the characters and all of the motivations and has no time for a recap.  When it is over, you’re sure that there is another chapter and, in fact, the movie promises one.

That is both to its credit and, kind of, to its detriment.  The movie feels off-balance, like we’re not being given crucial elements to the plot.  We understand it but there are a lot of characters and developments that are unfocused and unfinished.  And yet, it is hard to dislike this movie.

The titular hero is Buckaroo Banzai, a master of multi-tasking, who works as a scientist, a neuro-surgeon and is the lead singer of a rock group, The Hong Kong Cavaliers.  He’s also half-American and half-Japanese, but in Peter Weller you couldn’t tell.  As the movie opens, he is late to a test of a new supersonic vehicle because he was busy performing delicate brain surgery that no other neurosurgeon was capable of performing. 

In spite of his multiple talents, he gets mixed up in a weird plot by aliens to destroy Earth after his supersonic car drives through a mountain, briefly thrusting him into the 8th dimension, an alternate universe that contained “Electroids from Planet 10”, aliens who came to earth on November 1, 1938 just one day after Orson Welles infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast – seems that the events at Grover’s Mill were not a hoax.  The aliens thereafter settled among us.

The plot to destroy us is run by the insane Dr. Emile Lizardo, who sports strange hair, bad skin and a weird mock-Italian accent that would rival Chico Marx.  He is one of many characters in this movie that are surface level, out-of-focus and never really explained.  He joins Ellen Barken as the suicidal Penny Priddy, Jeff Goldblum whose sole purpose here seems to be exposition and The President (Ronald Lacey) who is usually seen hanging upside down.

I couldn’t pass a test on this movie.  The plot is so strange and there are so many developments that run sideways, or are simply halfway developed, but strangely I didn’t mind.  The movie is so funny and so charming partially because it seems so unfocused that I found myself enjoying it even though I didn’t understand most it.  This is the kind of movie that cult status was made for, a movie that is dumped by its distributor, makes no money and then finds new life later on.  That’s what we have here.  It deserves to be seen, warts and all.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.