Daffy Duck will be pleased to hear he didn’t miss any career opportunities when he wasn’t chosen to star in “Howard the Duck,” although producers certainly could have benefited from his talents.
Scripters Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck have taken the cigar chompin’, beer drinkin’ comic book character and turned him into a wide-eyed, cutesy, midget-sized extraterrestrial accidentally blown to Cleveland from a misdirected laser beam.
Howard encounters rock singer Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson) after a few harrowing minutes on Earth and they become instant friends after he defends her from a couple of menacing punkers following his landing outside the rock club where she has just finished performing with the band Cherry Bomb.
Thompson has been given too sweet and innocent a personality to be a lead singer in a punk band, which may be the fault of director Huyck in only allowing her such a one-dimensional character.
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Film just about dies in the first 15 minutes when she takes Howard home and brings him into bed with her–teasing that she wants to make love to him because he’s so cute and she feels sorry for him. Even if pic is undeniably fiction, there is no way they have enough time together to develop this kind of sappy rapport.
Fortunately, the two are interrupted with the unexpected arrival of Thompson’s hapless science lab assistant friend, Phil Blumbrutt (Tim Robbins) and the physicist Dr. Jenning (Jeffrey Jones) who bungled the laser experiment bringing Howard to Earth and hopes to reverse the process and beam him home.
In the meantime, there are several amusing sequences as Howard tries to fit into human society, notably his encounter with an overpowering, no-nonsense unemployment counselor determined that he remain off the welfare rolls no matter how strange he looks to prospective employers.
Pic then lapses into formulaic predictability with nearly an hour of frenetic chase scenes and technically perfect explosions from Industrial Light & Magic as Thompson and Robbins try to thwart the authorities’ attempts to capture the duck before he gets a chance to be beamed.
Action comes sporadically alive in scenes with scientist Jones, who becomes possessed by the spirit of an evil Dark Warlord that entered his body during the same fateful mishap that brought Howard to Earth.
There is an abundant amount of special effects wizardry that emanates mostly from Jones as he transforms into a monster, but it is not spectacularly unique enough to distinguish this film from other, more entertaining, sci-fi thrillers.
While John Barry’s scoring just adds noise to the already clamorous scenes, Thomas Dolby’s songs written for Cherry Bomb’s club sets are catchy.