Cinema Obscura

This no-holds-barred look at the seedy world of race-car driving, brain-surgery performing, gunslinger rock stars is, upon repeated viewing, a little bit childish. Not childish like “Rob Schneider as a talking hemorrhoid” childish, but as in “guitar-playing samurai cowboy doctor” seems like an unrealistic career choice to a 5-year-old.

The story itself — Buckaroo (Weller) drives an experimental car into the eighth dimension, accidentally frees an imprisoned intergalactic warlord (Lithgow, criminally sans Oscar nomination), and uncovers an Orson Welles-initiated alien invasion, or something — reads like the product of an incredibly geeky backyard make-believe session, and the characters (everyone from neurosurgeons to the president) behave like they’re still playing dress-up, spouting nonsensical technical jargon and fortune-cookie philosophy in a failed effort to sound like they know what they’re doing. Aryan ideal and former San Antonian Weller, like so many others here, is a perfect casting choice, delivering bastardized Confucius-isms like “No matter where you go, there you are” with a clear-eyed earnesty that shouldn’t be possible post-puberty.

But the writing’s too good (and too intentionally funny) to consider Buckaroo guilty-pleasure pulp trash, and other elements — the Thomas Pynchon references, the Lynch-lite surrealism (Buckaroo hooks up with his dead wife’s identical twin after she attempts suicide at his concert), the plot twists clattering uncomfortably like three Cold War B-movies crammed into a matryoshka doll — are a little post-modern for the typical Goonies crowd. This strange dichotomy puts Buckaroo beyond genre-fication. It’s a childish movie requiring intelligence and experience to fully appreciate, a gentle reminder that no matter how old we get, even if we’ve graduated from driving a painted cardboard box to helming that tricked out, Oscillation-Overthruster- equipped Chevy truck, we’re all still pretty much confused monkey boys, pretending we know what’s going on.

Dir. W.D. Richter; writ. Earl MacRauch; feat. Peter Weller, John
Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd (PG)