Guilty Pleasures: Howard the Duck
By Felix Quinonez Jr.
June 21, 2012
After regaining his composure – somewhat - Howard notices a girl (Lea Thompson) being mugged. Howard rescues her, using Quack Fu. Yep, you read that right, but the less said about that, the better. So after he rescues Thompson (her character’s name is Beverly, if you’re interested) it becomes very clear that she is supposed to be the love interest. I know in the comic book Howard has a human girlfriend too but in it, they are both drawn. Even though she is human, as a reader we see two cartoon characters, so it’s not as weird as seeing a flesh and bone human being (Thompson, no less) flirting with a giant duck puppet. Seeing them very awkwardly flirt is funny enough to make the movie worth watching.
What makes it even more enjoyable is that it’s clear the filmmakers didn’t know how they were supposed to portray this budding relationship and the tone varies wildly from scene to scene. Sometimes they try to play it straight and in other parts they don’t even try to hide the absurdity. I feel like I’ve seen a million movies from the ‘80s where a cheesy pop song is played as the screen jumps back and forth between reaction shots from the girl to the guy. They can’t see each other, of course, but by the end of the song they – simultaneously - realize they belong together. We get to see that here…except it’s with a giant duck puppet. It even includes the obligatory close up shot of Howard fixing his collar. Another great scene involves Howard and Lea Thompson “playfully” talking about sex. It’s funny and…I guess a bit depressing. (But mostly funny) You can actually see the regret all over Thompson’s face.
Another reason to enjoy this movie is Tim Robbins. I’ll admit I had totally forgotten he was even in this movie, which I’m sure he didn’t mind. But he was pretty hilarious in a “are you for real?” kind of way. This is the kind of role that actors try really hard to distance themselves from. The best way I can describe his performance is to compare it to Steve Urkel. He is full of nerdy, awkward energy. He is a scientist or a lab assistant…but it doesn’t matter, he’s ridiculous.
But the star of the movie is Howard and so I have to talk about the actor who voices him. I actually had to Google him. His name is Chip Zien. (Cue the crickets) You can hear the sound of his hopes being dashed throughout the movie. At the beginning he sounds lively and excited but it seem like he gradually realized this movie is not going to be the break he might have been hoping for. And towards the end of the movie he starts adding really random pauses right in the middle of sentences. It’s awesome.
A lot of people don’t know - or care - that this movie was produced by George Lucas. Lucasfilm actually built the animatronic suits used in the movie. And I have to say they hold up pretty well. If you can look past the fact that it’s a duck using Quack Fu, you’ll see that it’s actually choreographed pretty well. And did I mention Lea Thompson is in this movie? This came out only a year after Back to the Future and she’s still looking very cute.
I know that it sounds like (besides Thompson) everything I like about this movie falls in that “so bad, it’s good” category and that’s kind of true but is that so bad? Not everything has to be Oscar worthy and unless you’re a really hardcore Howard the Duck fan, you’ll probably find this pretty funny. Like my mom always said, “sometimes the best laughs are unintentional.” (She didn’t really say that, but she should have.)
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting you go out and buy - or even rent - this movie. But if for some strange reason it comes on or someone happens to have it and you have a few beers and absolutely nothing better to watch, check it out.