Saturday, January 14, 2017

Howard the Duck (1986)

HOWARD THE DUCK directed by Willard Huyck

Ranked 4.6/10 on IMDB

Warning: Spoilers!
--does anyone truly care?

Quick Synopsis:

Talon: Written and directed by Willard Huyck, and Gloria Katz. Produced by...


George Lucas?


Oh, no. How could such a great director, creator of freaking STAR WARS, even come near such an awful film like this?

Joe: He had hope, son. Just like I had hope when I saw this atrocity in the theaters back in the 80s. Good old George was disappointing audiences long before Jar-Jar Binks...

Talon: I'll just pretend it's not Lucas.

Howard is a superhero, er... superduck, in the Marvel Universe. I've read the writers wanted to make Howard an animated film but Universal studios was fixed on the idea of a live action summer blockbuster.

Joe: Don't you mean 'summer duckbuster'?

I'll be honest, after sitting through this abomination, I really wanted to bust some ducks.

I mean, take on look at the terrible duck costume and tell me you wouldn't want to euthanize this poor creature. With a shotgun.

The actor inside the costume, Ed Gale, was decent. But you could put DeNiro in a feathered duck suit and it still wouldn't fly. Literally.

But that suit was just one of many bad calls, which we'll get into. Even if Lucas did his STAR WARS revisionist thing and digitally replaced bad costume Howard with a modern CGI character, the film would still stink like cow farts.

Talon: Oh, and Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz also co-wrote INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM.

So you would think they understand how to make HOWARD THE DUCK a fun movie.

Quick answer:

They don't.

Joe: It's not fun. It hurts. Like lemon juice on a paper cut. Like getting an ear pierced with a butter knife. Like super herpes. I spent a lot of the movie wincing and cringing and feeling sorry for Lea Thompson, who was the only thing watchable in the film.

Talon: I don't intend to sound rude, but this movie pressed my rage button so hard that getting hella probed by aliens who specialize in pain would be more pleasurable and more fun.

The beginning starts off well. We enter Howard's room with pretty good cinematography--a relief from the previous bad movies that started with info-dump--some of the things on his walls made me laugh as mocking human actions with anthropomorphic duck actions.

Feeding fish. Drinking out of bottles. Reading PlayDuck instead of Playboy. Watching Duck news.

Joe: I dunno how much of that they took from the comic book, but I do recall PlayDuck. If they played Howard like they did in comics, as a wisecracking misanthrope, maybe it could have worked. But instead they tried to make him lovable, probably to sell toys.

Because, look at him, what child of the 80s wouldn't want a Howard the Duck action figure and playset? With wisequacking action!

Talon: So a duck-quake occurs while Howard is checking out the centerfold, and the chair he's sitting on won't let him stand for whatever reason, and goes zooming off. It breaks through his wall, other bedrooms, a bathroom that's occupied by a bathing duck with duck boobs--

Joe: Yet another missed toy potential.

What do you want for Christmas, Billy?

I want the Howard The Duck With Boobs doll!

Don't lose the martini glass accessory!

Thanks, George Lucas.

Talon: And then the energy beam or quake or whatever it is catapults Howard out the apartment building and he gets rocketed into space.

We don't know why it only happens to him and not every other duck, and we don't know how he survives space travel.

Oh yeah, bad writing. That's how.

So after landing on human Earth in an alley without a scratch on him, Howard gets grabbed by some punk-rockers after saying, "I'm a bad duck."

Look! A talking duck from outer space! Let's beat him up!

Joe: Nobody expects a movie with a talking duck to be drenched in realism. But not a single character does anything that makes any sense.

Talon: Want to play a drinking game? Take a shot every time Howard says something unfunny.

You'll be in a coma by the end of it.

So Howard is scared, and hyperventilates as a homeless woman tries to kill him. Which is what anyone should do if they saw a walking, talking duck.

After many scenes of Howard dodging pointless obstacles like a moving truck and a pack of motorcycles, he ends up jumping in a barrel.

He meets Beverly (Lea Thmpson), a singer at a dive bar, who finishes a music set and then walks down the alley where Howard is and conveniently gets mugged.

That's all Howard can stand.

"That's it! No more Mr. Nice Duck!" And he saves Beverly with his master skills of quack-fu.

His quack-fu consists of jumping on stomachs, swinging his little leg to hit someone's shin and playing mercy with a punk's hand.

Uh oh, get your shots ready.

Howard then says to the bad guys,

"You and baby face are gonna beat it! Before I get really mad!"

Grrr! Howard is working my last good nerve! Maybe he's just having a case of the Mondays. Am I right?

Joe: That's where my inner fanboy began to weep for Lea Thompson.

Talon: Beverly, who just had a talking duck save her ass, seems pretty okay that THERE'S A TALKING DUCK IN FRONT OF HER.

After a casual chat, they head back to her place.

Que romantic music and Howard saying lines to show he's clearly upset.

Then his chair rumbles, and Howard has interdimensional portal PTSD. Is he being sucked into space again?

Nope. It's simply a truck passing by.

Then Howard says, "Talk about an identity crisis!"

Oh boy!

Beverly takes him to a scientist, Phil Blumbertt (Tim Robbins, gamely giving it all), who's the first of a dozen people who've met Howard who's actually excited an alien life form landed on Earth.

Phil wants to know about Howard and his abilities, which is what everyone in the world would want to know, so he asks him if he has some sort of super power, then gives him a metal bar to bend.

Howard replies, "What are you? Crazy?"

Now I get completely what the director is trying to achieve. Anything Howard says is supposed to be funny. They set up a line, then Howard cleverly responds. Like this.

"What do you see?" Phil asks.

"I see myself walking right out that door!"

Oh! Get it? Super funny right?

That sums up the whole movie.

Fast forwarding, Howard decides he needs a job(!), and goes to an employment agency. The only thing worth mentioning here is when the lady interviewing Howard bent down to grab a paper, Howard got lusty and then tried to bite her ass.

Joe: Because the only thing funnier than a talking duck from space is a horny talking duck from space who objectifies women.

I'm really want to figure out why this movie fails so badly, and it's hurting my thinker. What it probably comes down to is an Emperor's New Clothes scenario, where the entire cast and crew went with it without questioning the stupidity, and no one stood up and shouted, "Wait a second! This is terrible! We need to fix this!"

Talon: Then Howard gets a job in the back of a strip club I guess by the power of the script and later on gets tossed into a Jacuzzi for not doing his job.

Before getting thrown in, Howard says, "Wait! I can't swim!"

Great, the annoying horny talking duck also can't swim.

"Don't mind me!" Howard yells, flailing around in the water.

Drunk yet?

Joe: But that's an important plot point, a duck who can't swim, because at the end he must learn to swim to save Beverly and stop the earth from being invaded by aliens.

Oh, wait. He doesn't ever swim again.


Talon: Okay, I'm ranting. This was supposed to be a quick synopsis...

Here's the rest in one take.


After the dealing with an awkward moment where Howard and Beverly were about to have sex on her bed--

Joe: Another missed toy opportunity.

Talon: --Blumburtt and his two colleagues realize that the enormous laser they shot at Howard's planet (how Howard got to Earth in the first place) can be reversed. So the gang gets there and the laser malfunctions for whatever reason and it instead brings "The Dark Overlord of the Universe", who possesses one of Blumburtt's colleagues, the principal from Ferris Buehler. So Howard, the dark overlord, Blumburtt, and Beverly go to a diner.

Joe: Because the script said so.

Talon: I'll spare you the unfunny things Howard says in the diner so you don't get too plastered on shots.

Then the dark overlord kidnaps Beverly, and gets more powerful by absorbing a nuclear reactor.

Joe: Because; science.

Talon: Once he's done that, his new plan is to shoot Blumburtt's laser at his home planet, so he can bring more dark overlords and take over Earth I guess.

Howard and Blumburtt have an epic scene where they fly an ultralight through town, because why not, and they race to the laser room to stop the dark overlord from being dark and overlording.

Joe: That chase scene managed to be both unexciting and unfunny. But what it lacked in entertainment value, it made up for in length.

Talon: Don't get me wrong. This whole movie wanted to be a good movie, the money was there, the explosions, the soundtrack, decent special effects. Its just the script sucked the farts outta dead cows.

Joe: That's a toy I'd buy.

Talon: So they get to the laser place and wonder how they can stop the dark overlord, and Blumburtt remembers he has a Neutron Disintegrater.

Seriously, what a time to remember.

The dark overload breaks out of Blumburtt's colleague's body and becomes a high-budget wicked awesome stop-motion monster.

Joe: I agree with you here. Harkening back to the days of Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion is really fun. It didn't belong in this movie at all, but it was cool.

Talon: Wiggling tentacles that shot lightning out of them with mouths that could eat cars. Looked like a brown lobster with snail eyes.

I'll admit, this thing was hella bad-ass.  

After killing the bad-ass thing with the neutron gun, Howard has to make the selfless decision to destroy the laser that could take him home.

Such bravery.

If only they knew how to make another one!

So Howard says, "Goodbye Duckworld" and destroys the laser.

As the dust settles, we cut to Beverly performing the movie's main theme song in front of a large cheering crowd.

All the frustration and angst I'd developed over the ninety minute period began to diminish, and a new sensation brewed in my soul.

The feeling of dancing!

Oh yeah!

Howard... The Duck! Woo!

Still hate this movie, though.

Joe: I didn't feel like dancing. I just hated it.

First Impressions:

Talon: I was told I was watching a super hero movie produced by George Lucas so my expectations were really high. I was in for an action-packed quest with quotable characters and detailed special effects.

Joe: That should teach you. Never hope for anything. Life is a series of endless disappointments sporadically interrupted by a catastrophe.

HOWARD THE DUCK was one of the catastrophes.

Talon: H.T.D blew my mind. This was an actual movie. People had to put in hundreds of hours, millions of dollars, thousands of takes, to create a final product.

It must suck to get panned by critics, and viewers, and get ranked as one of the worst movies of all time. Even though a lot of it was unbearable, I still saw all the heart and effort put into it.  

Joe: A lot of talented, optimistic people worked hard on this. It's tragic.

You hear all of these stories of Hollywood execs visiting the set, overriding the director, demanding reshoots.

Here's one movie where that was desperately needed, but it apparently didn't happen.

Talon: And it had a budget of 36 million.

Joe: There are so many better things they could have done with that money. Like set it on fire.

Talon: Here's some of the dialog my dad and I had while viewing. Try to imagine some of our phrases as catchy slogans:

"It'd be funnier if Howard got tortured to death."
"I feel like I'm being tortured to death."

"I want my money back and I didn't even buy it."

Howard the duck says,"Talk about a rotten day."
More like, "Talk about a rotten movie."

"I'm really, really hoping Howard has sex with Beverly."

Now for the bad puns.

"Hey look, Beverly's feeling down."

"Howard's on a bad pluck streak."

"Add that to Howard's bill."

"Remember that fight scene?"
"He winged it."

Best Worst Scene

Talon: When the movie ended.

Joe: When Howard and Beverly are about to have sex, and Howard has the duck condom in his wallet.

I didn't make that up. That's for reals.

Talon: So after that life-changing experience, here's our trademark.

Watch it?

Talon: Yes, you'll be a changed duck, or person.

Joe: Yes. This one really has to be seen, to experience how bad it is. But you'll need two espressos to stay awake, and four beers and a shot for the pain.

Share it?

Talon: Yes, just tell people George Lucas produced it.

Joe: Yes. If you've got guests who just won't leave, this will clear the room.

Re-watch it?

Talon: Yes, when I'm not alive anymore.

Joe: I'll need at least twenty years before I can suffer through this again. Maybe when you have kids...

Talon: Have you seen HOWARD THE DUCK? Do you have any other Best Worst Movies to recommend? Do you want to link to your unrelated blog about nutritional supplements?

Then post in the comments section!


Talon will now spout off five reasons you should watch the next movie we're blogging about, John S. Rad's heart-stopping DANGEROUS MEN!


  1. Did you catch the Howard the Duck cameo at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy? I like the comic but the film's like being forced to gobble week old dog turd with a spoon.

  2. I saw HtD as a child of ten. In the theater. With my church lady grandmother, who started snoring after the first five minutes, thank god. I had NO idea what a condom was at the time, and when I finally had the contextual experience and had a flashback to this movie, I immediately vomited a little in my mouth. Looking back though, I think I was entertained, overall. MUCH UNLIKE the Garbage Pail Kids movie of around the same time. That was just a shitshow, no two ways about it.

    1. This made me laugh out loud. I've yet to see Garbage Pail Kids but heard terrible things about it. Stay tuned for the post! :)