HOWARD THE DUCK Special Edition DVD Review

     March 9, 2009

Written by Eli

Good God, where do I start?

Sometimes when you go back and watch something you loved as a child, you realize it’s just not as good as you remember, and that the rose colored glasses of nostalgia have offered you a warped view of something that maybe wasn’t so awesome. (Misfits of Science, I must sadly admit that you are not actually awesome)

I have amazingly fond memories of Howard the Duck. I loved it back in ’86 when it came out, and I loved the bootlegged VHS copy my brother and I watched repeatedly until it disintegrated in the early nineties (you know you did Jonah, don’t try to defend yourself). Oddly enough, this VHS tape also had a bootlegged Temple of Doom, which is still my favorite Indiana Jones movie, even though it is arguably the worst of the first three films. So maybe my taste is questionable in general.

Even at the time, it did not escape my attention that the film was universally reviled by critics and movie goers.* This movie bombed so bad that I noticed as a six year old, and I wasn’t exactly keeping up with the industry back then (I was too busy watching Misfits of Science). Being a timid lad, I have loved this movie in secret for too long. No more. I love Howard the Duck. I loved it then, and as I recently discovered, I love it now. And everyone who mocks and denigrates it can shut the hell up.

Howard the Duck is about an anthropomorphized Duck, from a planet called Duckworld, who gets sucked through space and lands in Cleveland. Anyone who complains about how this movie has logical flaws is an idiot. Yes, you are all idiots; I say this with a level of condescension Matt Goldberg** himself might find daunting! Were you expecting a taut psychological thriller? A moving drama? An Oscar Wild comedy of clipped witticism and manner? IT’S ABOUT A BIG DUCK.

Unremittingly silly, full of eighties sights and sound, and making about as much sense as LA’s freeway system, Howard the Duck knows exactly what it is. Fun. That’s all. Silly, goofy fun.

Buts that not all. The special effects are beautiful. ILM knocks it out of the park, as they always do, showing us the very height of pre CGI technology. Used to be you had to actually build things that existed on the screen (I love you Phil Tippett). The makeup job on Jeffrey Jones is a masterwork, as it changes from scene to scene throughout his transformation. For his part, Jones turns in an awesome performance. It isn’t subtle, but it probably took as much stamina and technique as any Oscar winning actor you care to compare him with. And Lea Thompson is every bit as hot as Princess Lea, and just as charming, witty and sexy. Wait. Hold on. Okay, I got carried away. I wish to alter my last statement. Substitute “nearly” for “every bit as.”

And Tim Robbins is in it. And he’s really, really goofy.

What more you could ask for? (Cue segue to the extras portion of the review.)

This Dvd manages to have just the right amount of extras. A nice long (45 minute) featurette “Looking Back at Howard the Duck” is the meatiest, full of clips and interviews. We hear from the directors, and a few of the stars. It looks briefly at most aspects of the film, including casting, filming, special effects, and post production. (Note that I did NOT slip a duck joke in there.) More interesting is Releasing Howard the Duck (12 minutes) in which the director and several of the actors talk about how poorly received the film was, and what it was like to deal with that as artists. The extras are rounded out by four “archival” featurettes (i.e. old) that are not as interesting, but also not as long. A few obligatory trailers are thrown in. I wouldn’t have minded more on the special effects, but you can’t always get what you want. Oh, and George Lucas apparently decided he was too good to show up, which suits me fine. I don’t need to hear him talking, ever again. (Unless it’s to apologize for the prequals.)

So if you aren’t a fan, or have never seen Howard the Duck, I highly suggest you give it a watch. Don’t expect miracles, just a few hours of silly fun. And if you are a fan… DO NOT HIDE IN THE SHADOWS ANY LONGER! OUR TIME IS NOW!

A plus

* Lets state outright that this film (and this review) isn’t aimed at hardcore fans of the Howard the Duck comic book. Sorry guys, you got screwed.

** That’s right Matt, I’m calling you condescending. What you gonna do about it?

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