|Howard the Duck
1986 - PG - 110 Mins.
|Director: Willard Huyck
|Producer: Gloria Katz
|Written By: Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz
|Starring: Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins and Ed Gale
|Review by: Bill King
When George Lucas finished work on "Return of the Jedi," he wanted to put the series on hold until his special effects improved. In the meantime, he worked on many other projects, and unfortunately, this is one of them. "Howard the Duck" is one of movie history's biggest flops. How could the creative team behind "American Graffiti" and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" create such a disappointment? The movie is ill-conceived, badly written, uses poor special effects and has a handful of images that I wouldn't care to see again.
Do you have feathers all over?
The movie begins in what appears to be your average American city. The city turns out to be on another planet, where ducks walk on two feet, I mean, flippers, and act just like humans. They have cars, magazines, apartments and everything else that earth had in 1986. Instead of Playboy, they have Playduck. Since male ducks are called drakes, shouldn't the magazine be called Playdrake? That's more thought than the movie deserves. Anyway, Howard T. Duck (I guess his middle name is "The") walks into his apartment, turns on the TV and takes out the centerfold for Playduck. Then his chair shakes, and he is hurtled through one end of the building to another. He crashes through a bathroom, where a female duck, with feathery breasts, is taking a bath. He leaves his planet and is sent to earth on some sort of cosmic ray, which scientists in Cleveland, Ohio have invented.
If this is beginning to sound absurd, it gets worse. Howard crashes in an alley and fends off muggers with quack fu to save a rocker named Beverly (Lea Thompson). I know that the movie is supposed to be a fantasy, but the earth in this movie is supposed to be the earth in real life, and as such, an alien life form in the shape of a duck on earth would cause some serious panic. Beverly is nervous about seeing a walking, talking duck at first, but she quickly accepts him. Later, Howard walks around town without anyone looking astounded. I can believe that a frog, a pig and a bear can walk and talk like everyone else, but "Howard the Duck" didn't convince me that this world is the kind where animals and people can co-exist.
Also on hand to embarrass themselves are Jeffrey Jones and Tim Robbins. They work at the scientific institute where the cosmic ray was invented, and Jones, as Dr. Jenning, believes that something else was dragged down to earth along with Howard. An overlord who was banished to the rings of Saturn has returned via the ray, and plans to use it to bring his friends back with him. It's Howard's job to stop the overlord before that happens.
The movie was based on a comic book character by Steve Gerber. I've never read the comics, but the real fault lies with screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. They've filled the script with lots of improbable plot developments and absurd dialogue. George Lucas is said to disown the movie, but the damage has been done. Howard the Duck is easily available to the public, and I hope that children won't look at the box and be misled into thinking that it's wholesome, family entertainment. With its lack of entertainment value or imagination, the movie is about as interesting as watching the video tape collect dust on the shelf.