- Movie: Howard the Duck
- Director: Willard Huyck
- Starring: Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, Jeffrey Jones
- Rotten Tomato Rating: 15%
A Little Context
Almost immediately after the release of “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” George Lucas has an idea. He spots a Marvel comic book called Howard the Duck and decides it needs to be on film. It seems obvious initially that the movie needs to be animated. However, the studio is contractually owed a live-action film. No problem! Lucas just worked on Star Wars, he can oversee this and make it work. At least that’s what I’m sure Marvel thought, which hadn’t seen one of their characters on the big screen since Captain America in 1944.
Take a look at this trailer:
Nailed it. Can you guess what the target audience for this movie is? It’s rated PG…but Howard’s favorite pastimes are “cigars and sex.” The movie stars a talking duck…and within the first 5 minutes you see a naked female duck with human-shaped breasts (complete with nipples). There appears to be some slapstick. I guess. Seeing this trailer, I would have no idea who this is aimed at. After having watched the film, I still have no idea and I don’t think anybody really thought about it.
What better place to start than with Howard himself? First and foremost, he’s not very likable. Nor is he unlikable to the point where he’s at least interesting. Instead, he’s just kind of… there. I can’t quite put my finger on why exactly, but for as much stuff as Howard does, he’s is just never really very compelling. Sometimes he seems street smart. Sometimes he’s the ignorant alien. Sometimes he’s sassy. But never so much of any one thing that I actually want to watch him onscreen. It’s easy to see why this film should have been animated. Even with the limitations of the suit/puppetry, and great voice actor would still be able to give Howard some personality. Instead, Chip Zien is just kind of dull. I don’t know who is actually to blame, but I’m not sure how this voice performance made it to the final cut. The costume itself suffers from dead eyes. Sometimes Howard goes from an actor in a costume to a puppet, which is definitely noticeable and contributes to Howard seeming just a little off.
As I touched on before, one of the biggest issues with this movie is tone. In the “Howard the Duck” comic, Howard is an asshole. The movie only just barely flirts with this. Instead, he’s occasionally just kind of sassy. This change would be fine, but it also seems like they couldn’t quit commit to a younger audience. As I said earlier, we get some human breasts on a duck in the bathtub. Lea Thompson seriously puts the moves on Howard. He smokes. He’s not particularly lovable. I just don’t get why someone didn’t really notice this. Or didn’t care.
Surrounding Howard is a pretty strong supporting cast who, despite the script, are really trying. I mean seriously, Lea Thompson deserves an Oscar. I’ve never felt worse for an actress than when she had to seduce a man in a duck costume. Never in this movie does she phone it in. Tim Robbins plays a scientist friend of Lea Thompson, who is stereotypically dorky. And like Lea Thompson he really goes for the gold here. I’m sure if this movie wasn’t led by George Lucas, both actors would have been able to spot this dud. The villain in this movie is played by the always reliable Jeffrey Jones.
But Can I Drink To It?
Yes, for sure. Despite being about 30 minutes longer than it should be, “Howard the Duck” is a pretty good bad movie. Seriously though, almost two hours?!
1. “Ducky” – DRINK for 3 seconds!
2. Someone under reacts or just thinks Howard is wearing a costume – DRINK for 5 seconds!
3. DRINK whenever you feel bad for Lea Thompson!
4. Human breasts on a female duck – FINISH your drink!
Here is the edition I watched and where you can find it: Howard the Duck on Amazon Instant for $3-4 depending on quality. It’s also available on DVD for $10.
Post by: Tyler P.
Tyler Phillippi is a former improviser and musician. Now, he mainly focuses on getting through his Netflix queue. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org