I remember enjoying The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension back in the day. It’s quirky, has some fun humor, and has some decent actors in it. However, it does not hold up to multiple viewings.
Buckaroo Banzai is amazing. In addition to being a rock star, he is a brilliant brain surgeon, a nuclear particle physicist, and race car driver. As if that wasn’t enough, he has his own best-selling comic book line. To put it lightly, he is the ultimate Mary Sue character. He is “practically perfect in every way”, to misapply a quote from Mary Poppins. And he went on to play Admiral Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness, another film I enjoyed more than I should have.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, just about everyone he works with (they are all in his band, assist in his surgeries, work in his physics lab, and help on his race pit crew) is almost equally as amazing. All of the good guys in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai are Mary Sues. This films exceeds the Mary Sue saturation point.
This feature of the film is sort of played for laughs. That’s another part that is odd: it feels a little like a comedy, but the characters generally don’t deliver lines and act as they would in an actual comedy. It isn’t really serious, either. In fact, it is way over the top in almost every aspect. This leaves the viewer in a state of confusion.
After watching The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and doing some research on it, I think it would have worked far better as a television series. Too much is crammed into the 102 minutes allotted to the film. There are too many characters clamoring to be a main character. The damsel in distress is a pathetic limp doll who tries to act tough, but who couldn’t fight her way out of a wet paper bag. I really wanted to like this film (and have it live up to my nostalgia).
Now, after all the above, I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Is there anything you do like about the film?” Yes. I found the basic plot to be engaging (and needing to be expanded into a television series). The theme song is really fun. There are tons and tons of inside, geeky jokes scattered all over in the film. The characters grew on me as the film progressed, like a warm, comforting, fuzzy mold. And the film is even more enjoyable in the middle of the night after a lot of sleep deprivation.
Because of that, I enjoy it despite its many and significant flaws. Is The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension a great film? No, it is not. But it is really fun to try and catch all the jokes and see the over-the-top wackiness that fills the film to bursting. And the title; how can you not love the title? If you understand all that, then this film is for you. Otherwise, your head may explode during viewing.
Release Date: August 15, 1984 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief nightclub drinking, brief smoking)
Language: 2 (occasional, mostly mild, some deity and s-words)
Sexuality: 1 (Barkin’s character wears mostly revealing outfits)
Violence: 2 (science fiction battles, fisticuffs, extreme peril, death)