Plot: What’s it about?
Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is a jack of all trades, with skills as a rock musician, brain surgeon, crime fighter, and all sorts of other tasks, but his latest & greatest claim to fame is due to a scientific discovery he has made. He has managed to venture to the Eighth Dimension and return with his sanity intact, which no one else has done to this point. This trek was made thanks to his Oscillation Overthruster, which he moved into warp speed and before you could blink, he had tapped into the Eighth Dimension. But this breakthrough has attracted the attention of evil also, as Dr. Lizardo (John Lithgow) plans to use the device to take over the world. Lizardo intents to swipe the device, fetch some demented henchman from the Eighth Dimension, and with their assistance, become the ruler of this dimension. But with Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Cavaliers on the clock, it will be a battle to live forever in the annals of history, if there is a future, that is…
It took a long while to bring Buckaroo Banzai to DVD, but it has paid off in spades, as MGM’s Special Edition is excellent in all respects. You can tell this is aimed at fans, from the approach to the supplements to the menus, so followers should be overjoyed, as their ship has come in and it not one to be missed. The film itself is not for everyone, but fans of brisk & light offbeat sci/fi should be pleased, if not thrilled with Buckaroo Banzai. Yes, it tries too hard to be a cult film at times and it is loaded with cheese, but it has some wonderful moments and in the end, they amount to enough to fulfill the goals of the filmmakers. It never inspired the masses or even sparked much to follow, but this movie is fun and worthwhile. I simply love the characters and some of the outlandish situations, as well as the memorable dialogue. The story is a terrific one and the production staff creates a complex, immersive world for it unfold within, which is vital in a picture like Buckaroo Banzai, without a doubt. The movie is fun & worth a look, the disc is great, and the price is low, so this one is highly recommended without any hesitation at all.
I’ve watched this film with a lot of different friends and without fail, most find Peter Weller’s performance to be either dead to rights to dull as humanly possible. I think it bonds the two together and that’s just how it should be, given the way Buckaroo was written and the various things that happen to him. Yes, he does become droll at times and then picks up a little only to drop off again, but I think that was the correct approach, given the character’s nature. He also gets outshone by his costars often, but that seems to be the right way to handle things, so I can’t bring myself to complain too much. In the end, I think Weller’s turn is quite good and while it could have been better in places, no one else could have filled this role like he did. Other films with Weller include Screamers, Naked Lunch, Leviathan, Shakedown, and RoboCop. The cast also includes Ellen Barkin (Tender Mercies, The Big Easy), John Lithgow (A Civil Action, Cliffhanger), and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day).
Video: How does it look?
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai has been shown some love by Shout! Factory and it shows, in the most literal sense. The print has minimal blemishes and shows much less grain than expected, quite remarkable for a film of this age & nature. You’ll see some small flaws, but not too many and if you’ve seen the film before, you’ll be more than pleased here. The colorful world within the movie looks excellent also, thanks to vibrant hues and rich streams of color, which never bleed or falter in the least. The contrast is also more than solid, with good shadow depth and no detail loss, though black levels do drop off a tad in some scenes. This transfer is not flawless by any means, but it better than I ever expected and fans will be thrilled with the results.
Audio: How does it sound?
Not to be outdone, the new DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is certainly more than adequate, though not as expansive or effective as I had hoped it would be. The rear channels are used to enhance atmosphere at times, but never with much power and not often enough, if you ask me. The audio never seems problematic in that respect, but I felt some scenes could have used a boost, even if a small or subtle one. The mix has a nice amount of range and punch though, especially given the rather low budget origins of the film itself. The dialogue is a little low at times, but this has always been the case with this movie and in the end, you can make out all of the vocals, so worries persist.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disc One (Blu-ray)
- Audio Commentaries — Director W. D. Richter and writer Earl Mac Rauch provide a commentary track. The two insist the film is based on a true story and remain in character throughout, but never reveal much about the actual production. So the quirkiness starts to grate on your ears after a while, since they never really delve into the film itself, but remain vague about the world it was based on instead. The second track features production designers Michael and Denise Okuda and if those names sound the least bit familiar well then you’re a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The married duo did a wonderful job on the series’ resurrection, but they’re more unabashed fans of the film here, offering up little tidbits here and there.
- Into the 8th Dimension — A two hour segment that’s broken into 8 individual feturettes about the movie, its making and some interviews and behind the scenes footage. This is the most notable addition to the film as the second disc contains features that were present on the old MGM DVD. This is worth a watch if only for the camp value.
- Buckaroo Banzai Declassified — An older EPK that looks at the production of the film, some of the special effects as well as some interviews with the cast and crew.
- Alternate Opening — Jamie Lee Curtis as Buckaroo’s mother? Yes, that’s what happens when you change an opening. Oh well.
- New Jet Car Trailer — A pseudo commercial that features the car used in the film.
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
It’s been ages since I’ve sat down to watch this movie. I remember seeing it in theaters and, looking back, it’s kind of funny to watch. If you’re looking for a few diamonds in the rough, this is actually one of Jeff Goldblum’s earlier roles and John Lithgow isn’t wasted either. If anything it’s a testament to Peter Weller’s talent. This new Blu-ray offers up better audio and video than in versions past, so for that alone plus the new 2 hour documentary, it’s worth being a part of anyone’s collection.