Howard the Duck is infamous as the only George Lucas film project to flop. By the time he produced it (1986) his most famous were mostly behind him–American Graffiti, Original Star Wars Trilogy, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The movie is based on a Marvel comic of the same name. The weird part is, the comic is great. It’s a subversive and satirical little series that people should check out. The film however…
The most peculiar part of Howard the Duck is that it doesn’t seem to have any real demographic in mind. It seems like a fun movie for tweens, and yet it’s in some ways unsuitable for them. For starters, one of the early scenes in the movie features Howard working at a sleazy nightclub with topless women in jacuzzi–there’s no actual nudity, but some parents will be put off. If that weren’t enough, in another scene it shows a topless duck woman–with nudity! Does duck nudity (nipples for some reason) count as nudity?
There’s a lot of humor in the movie that’s similar to the kind of one-liners you hear in the Star Wars or Indiana Jones franchises, but while the jokes somehow kill in those classics, here they seem impossibly dorky. It doesn’t help that Howard looks remarkably like George Lucas.
Despite the flaws mentioned, the first half is actually pretty enjoyable. The second half turns into a lot of ridiculous action. There’s a long, long hanglider chase that rivals the ridiculously long boat chase in the James Bond film Live or Let Die for its ability to show tons of stunts but inspire nothing but ennui.
Some of the saving graces: the conclusion, for all the films zaniness, is kind of poignant. If you want to have a sort of “so bad it’s good” movie viewing night, rent Howard the Duck, but keep the remote handy to fast forward during the hang gliding sequence. You’re not missing anything.
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If you enjoyed this post about Howard the Duck, you might like my post featuring five random movies.