Classic Film Review: Howard the Duck (1986)

Marvel vs. DC:

Howard the Duck, 1986

Directed by: Willard Huyck

Starring: Chip Zien, Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins


Marvel’s first major theatrical release nearly caused the acting careers of Lea Thompson (Back to the Future) and Tim Robbins to end (Lea Thompson had to accept a film she had previously rejected), picked up four of the seven Razzie awards it was nominated for, including Worst Picture, and was a box office bomb compared to its budget. Howard the Duck told the story of Howard (voiced by Chip Zien, portrayed by six different actors) who is transported from his home world (Duckworld, full of enough duck puns to rival Adam West’s Batman) to Cleveland where he meets up with Beverly (Lea Thompson) and the two become friends while they search for the reason Howard has come to earth. They soon find themselves in a battle to save the earth from a series of Dark Overlords from coming under the guidance of Dr. Walter (Jeffrey Jones), who is quickly morphing into a Dark Overlord himself after a botched experiment.

I’ve seen many, many films that are worse than this so it is quite surprising that it picked up the Razzie for Worst Picture when Supergirl wasn’t even nominated for it. This film is bright and colourful and ridiculous in the best possible way. That’s not to say it’s a good film, but it certainly is quite fun. Yes, it’s noticeable how they had more than one actor in the Howard the Duck costume (you can tell his legs were longer in some fights scenes than in others), yes, the writing is absolutely atrocious, yes, the transformation scene where Dr. Walter becomes a Dark Overlord is the worst kind of ridiculous, yes, Howard and Beverly’s near-sex scene is awkward and weird, yes, the acting is terrible; but, it’s just a lot of fun.

There are some parts of the film I didn’t like, mainly the inclusion of Phil (Tim Robbins) as Beverly’s friend, as his character was very poor throughout, and why they chose to have a very long chase scene of Howard escaping the police because he’s being arrested for being a duck; it just took them far away from the story and the villain and just added extra unnecessary time, and I also disliked the contrasting characteristics of Howard: one minute he’s a pervert, the next he’s a fighter, then he’s innocent and weak, the next he’s angry. He flip-flops through his emotions constantly and never really settles on what he is personality-wise.

Look, I could bash everything from this film, as, judging it on the stands of it being a film, it’s terrible. It fully deserved some of its Razzies nominations, and certainly its Worst Screenplay award, but there’s just something about it that’s hilarious in its ridiculousness, and in a series of superhero films it was a nice change to see something so light-hearted rather than the seriousness we’ve been accustomed to.


Plot: * *                     Acting: *                     Writing: *                   Presentation: * *

Overall Rating: * ½

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