Strange Cinema: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984)

This is part of an ongoing review series for the films featured on 366weirdmovies.com‘s Certifiably Weird list. My goal is to watch and review all of them (even if it kills me). These reviews may contain spoilers.


The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984)
Director: W.D. Richter
Starring: Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, & Christopher Lloyd

What’s it about?
Physicist/test pilot/neurosurgeon/rock musician Buckaroo Banzai must save the world from a band of power-hungry inter-dimensional aliens from the Planet 10.

Is it any good?
Have you ever seen a movie so ridiculous you couldn’t help but love it? That’s how I feel about Buckaroo Banzai. When I read the synopsis for this one, my first thought was, “Oh no. This sounds like Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder.” And while it’s not quite that terrible, it’s still a riot.

Buckaroo Banzai has quite the cult following, and it’s pretty obvious why. You’ve got RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, playing a cool-yet-calculated rock star/physicist/neurosurgeon, John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd in all their manic glory, and a pre-Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum playing essentially the same character he always plays. These aren’t Oscar winning performances, but everyone hams it up perfectly, making for a highly entertaining camp-fest.

I really can’t judge this film on its artistic merit because it’s not meant to be artistic. But I can judge the pure absurdity of its plot, and Buckaroo Banzai gets top marks for absurdity. The idea of inter-dimensional aliens isn’t anything new, but the explanation of their existence kills me. Buckaroo decides to test drive his Jet Car, which is equipped with a secret device called the “oscillation overthruster.” This device allows the car to travel through solid matter. So Buckaroo successfully drives the car through a mountain, which puts him through to another dimension.

Years earlier, Dr. Emilio Lizardo (Lithgow) tried the same experiment and ended up trapped in the 8th dimension, where his mind was taken over by the leader of the Red Lectroids, Lord John Whorfin. The Red Lectroids are a race of reptilian aliens who decided to wage war against the much more docile (and Jamaican) Black Lectroids. Apparently they were banished to the 8th dimension, but came back to Earth in an incident reported by Orson Welles in 1938. Buckaroo is contacted by the Black Lectroids and instructed to destroy the Red Lectroids, otherwise they will destroy Earth.

The entire backstory is convoluted, but definitely more creative than War of the Worlds. The action, acting, and accompanying soundtrack are so typically ’80s, but the whole package is so charming you can overlook the cheesiness of it all. When you think of great cult movies, you have to include Buckaroo Banzai in the Top 10.

Grade: A (for a so-absurd-it’s-cool aesthetic)
Weirdness Score: 8/10 (or, weird enough to rival Jeff Goldblum’s laugh in Jurassic Park)

[Read the more in-depth 366 Weird Movies review here.]

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