Picks and Pans Review: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai

updated 09/17/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/17/1984 01:00AM

Destined to become a comedy cult classic, this movie is about as wacky as they come—and about as incoherent. Peter (Shoot the Moon) Weller plays sci-fi hero Buckaroo Banzai, a futuristic Renaissance man—brain surgeon, scientist and rock performer. With the help of something called an Oscillation Overthruster, Buckaroo has broken through the dreaded eighth dimension, that is, he can travel through solid matter in his jet-powered pickup truck. But that trick unleashes some weirdos from outer space; they are so bizarre they keep turning up in business suits, looking like the CIA. John (Terms of Endearment) Lithgow plays a crazed alien inhabiting the body of the Italian scientist who invented the first Overthruster: his performance, highlighted by his blackened gums, lowers dementia to new depths. Ellen (Diner) Barkin plays Buckaroo's girlfriend. In one inspired bit of black humor she tries to commit suicide in a club where Buckaroo is performing; when someone accidentally bumps her gun and the shot goes into the ceiling, the boys in the band instantly draw their guns, suspecting an ambush. Jeff (The Big Chill) Goldblum adds more quirkiness as a surgeon recruited for the Banzai gang when it takes out after the evil aliens. Weller's absolutely straight performance makes his character seem even loonier than he sounds. He lives with his gang in what looks like a run-down warehouse, while the alien spaceships look like caves littered with junk-food wrappings. And you've got to love the credits at the end, when the cast struts down a street dressed in outlandish outfits. Directed by WD. Richter, who wrote Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Brubaker, this film is like Blade Runner with a sense of humor. It's high-tech seedy, the kind of movie you laugh at out loud, sometimes without even knowing why. (PG)-

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