By Anna Husted EBS Film Critic
Since reading Ernest Pile’s novel “Ready Player One” two years ago, and watching Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film adaptation of it, I have intended to watch the 1980s movie referenced both—“The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.”
Director W.D. Richter’s directorial debut, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” is a fun, family-friendly film from 1984 about rock ‘n’ rolling, dimension-traveling brain surgeon, Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller of “RoboCop”), and his crime-fighting band, the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Banzai and the Cavaliers find themselves in quite the pickle when Banzai travels through a mountain and returns with an alien being, supposedly from the 8th dimension.
Upon hearing about Banzai’s cargo, Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow), who first discovered that the 8th dimension resided on earth, escapes from a mental institution to come after Banzai. Lizardo went crazy when he attempted to cross into the 8th dimension years earlier, but only made it halfway—merging his identity with that of the aliens.
The only thing more ridiculous than the plot is the clothes. Only the coolest ‘80s fashion is worn by the Cavaliers, particularly by Perfect Tommy (Lewis Smith) who sports bleach blonde hair and a white blazer. Each character has their own icy-cool ‘80s style except the newest member of the team, New Jersey (Jeff Goldblum). New Jersey has been begging Banzai to join the band/crime-fighting team, but his cowboy style and country singing leaves something to be desired.
“The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” is so entertaining to watch and a creative science-fiction ride, but isn’t without its faults. The main female character, Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin), is constantly a damsel in distress. We meet her at a club where Banzai is performing and everyone is having a good time, except tearful Priddy, a buzzkill throughout the film. The second issue is the casting for Banzai, who is supposedly Japanese-American, but played by white, Wisconsin-born Weller.
On the plus side, the music is shoulder-padded, big-hair, synthesizer ‘80s, and the actors are so immersed in these strange characters you feel like you have known them for ages. The acting and writing supports the idea suggested by the film’s title, that Banzai and the Cavaliers have had many adventures before, even though this is the only Buckaroo Banzai film. We jump into their world where inside jokes are never explained and fighting aliens is a normal, every day activity.
Garnering a justified cult following over the years, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” deserves some attention despite its flaw—especially if you’re a kid of the ‘80s.
“The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
Anna Husted has a master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found at the movies at Lone Peak Cinema or hiking up a mountain. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s running, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.