‘Howard The Duck’ or — Can One Performance Save a Movie?

Good god, where to even begin with ‘Howard The Duck’ (1986)?

First up, the movie does itself zero favours from the get-go starting with one of the most irritating, annoying, boring, ill-judged opening thirty minutes of any 80’s movie I’ve seen, and that’s saying something. The concept — a world where ducks have evolved a society similar to humans — is jarring, the execution is freaky and weird, the duck tits are baffling, the CONSTANT duck puns are grating as fucking hell, the pacing feels sluggish, the humour falls flat so often and hard it’s bruised beyond recognition, Tim Robbins is annoying, Lea Thompson looks totally lost and Howard himself, despite his impressive practical effects, is such a strange creation that it’s impossible to warm or connect to him in any way. I didn’t like him at the start of the film and I still didn’t like him at the end. The movie was so tedious and irritating, especially once the eighties music kicks in, that I was becoming angry and was contemplating turning it off, something I try never to do with a film no matter how bad it is.

Then, around forty minutes in, two things happen which don’t turn ‘Howard The Duck’ a good film but certainly save it from being a completely unenjoyable slog, and they are — a sense of self-awareness and Jeffrey Jones turning into a demon.

It’s amazing how a film acknowledging it’s full of awful duck puns can make a massive difference to a film full of awful duck puns. At one point a detective turns to one of his men who is cracking duck jokes and says ‘Please don’t, don’t, don’t start, please, please…’. The weight that lifted knowing the movie knew how irritating it all was was immense. And this self-awareness only increases in the rather good diner scene, especially in the form of the waitress who is one of the funnier characters in this movie and is calling out all the duck/dark overlord nonsense. She has the film’s best lines.

Also, by the diner scene Jeffrey Jones has turned into a dark demon and when this happens the energy of the movie picks up big time with Jones being vastly more fun to watch than Howard and delivering a wonderfully bonkers and entertaining performance. The fact that the true extent of his powers takes a little time to be revealed is also nicely played for laughs and for a good chunk of the second half the focus, thank god, is mostly on Jones.

The movie keeps this newly found momentum up til the end, increasing the mayhem whilst also throwing in some neat optical effects and some very nice stop-motion monsters. It ends with Howard playing electric guitar live on stage, something I had been dreading there was going to be a lot more of during the rest of the movie but is, fortunately, confined to the closing minutes so that’s a blessing.

‘Howard The Duck’ isn’t a good movie. There are too many issues, both conceptual and technical, that get in the way of being able to embrace it fully to your heart. Tonally it’s a bizarre mess being both childish and highly, and I mean highly, sexualised leaving me wondering who the hell this film was aimed at. But ‘Howard The Duck’ does seem to find its webbed footing (hey, that’s my first and only duck pun in this so I think I should be congratulated for my restraint) in its second half along with it’s own unique vibe that keeps it diverting in an odd kinda way. Plus, Howard might be technically impressive but its Jones’ performance who steals the show.




Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Do You Remember, “Debbie Does Dallas?”

WATCH © FULL MOVIE © Game of Thrones Season 8 (2019) #*MOVIE

Why Poe Dameron Is Perfectly In Character In The Last Jedi

Mondays in the Sun, a cinematic gift from Spain

I’m a DIY Wonder Woman Porn Actress

Why these 5 Bollywood Actresses Quit Acting

JOMBA! Digital Fringe — A Sobering Perspective on Covid-19

‘My Man Godfrey’ (1936)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

More from Medium

Leave The Projector On

‘The Power Of The Dog’ (2021)

Review: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

The ‘Recipe’ For A Cartoon For The New Yorker