Howard The Duck (1986) review: So weird it makes Deadpool look tame
George Lucas gave us a new sci-fi universe, but it's nowhere near Star Wars caliber.
Once upon a time, the brilliant filmmaker George Lucas used the magic of the silver screen to create a strange and unusual world full of bizarre creatures and characters that audiences would not soon forget. With that information, I’m sure you can immediately guess that I’m talking about the movie Howard the Duck.
Howard the Duck was based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name about an anthropomorphic duck from another dimension trapped on Earth and fighting evil. Decades later, we actually caught a glimpse of Howard in Guardians of the Galaxy and again in Guardians 2.
And if you watch extra closely, you can just spot him in Avengers: Endgame.
There's no word on whether we'll be getting a new Howard movie, but the first on-screen adaptation of Howard the Duck came in the 1986 movie starring Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, and Jeffrey Jones. Howard himself was played by a combination of puppets and Ed Gale in a duck suit with Chip Zein voicing him.
When the movie starts, we see Howard living his normal existence in his own duck world. His dimension is almost identical to Earth’s except, well, ducks.
Howard is just about to settle in to jerk off to an issue of “PlayDuck” when a mysterious force jerks him out of his apartment and sends him hurtling into space.
But not before he passes through this apartment, giving us this scene.
Holy crap. Are those duck breasts!? Those are definitely full-on duck knockers! This movie is rated PG, how did this get past the censors? Rating systems must have been drastically more lax in the '80s.
Howard lands on Earth and ends up in a dark, miserable, hellish place… Cleveland, Ohio!
Whenever Howard encounters normal humans, there’s never a very consistent reaction. Some are horrified, others are indifferent, and some have overwhelming homicidal rage towards him. Yeah, Howard almost gets murdered several times. Once he almost gets decapitated. How the hell was this considered acceptable for children?
After rescuing a singer named Beverly (who looks like an '80s fashion nightmare) from being attacked, Beverly offers to help out this strange mutant duck by giving him a place to stay.
She also has her scientist friend investigate how Howard landed on Earth and how to send him home.
In the meantime, Howard tries to acclimate to life on Earth by getting a job. It goes as well as you would expect for someone who looks like Donald Duck’s distant drunken kinsman.
Howard starts working at what I'm pretty sure is an illegal sex spa. And as disgusting as it must be to clean up in this place, it probably works in Howard’s favor that everyone is too distracted to notice the creepy looking duck-man hovering around the hot tubs.
Howard also helps Beverly and her band out by beating the crap out of their scuzzy manager, forcing him to pay them and let them out of their contract. Beverly is incredibly grateful to Howard. In fact, she takes Howard home and tries to show him just how...appreciative she is.
Oh, Mother of God, no. Are they going to do it? Because they look dangerously close to engaging in some human-duck action. I swear, if I'm going to be subjected to bestiality, I’m going to demolish my entire bar cart and drink myself into oblivion.
Okay, thank God, Beverly’s scientist friend and his colleagues burst in just at the right time. But that was way too close for comfort.
I really think I might vomit.
The scientists think they know how Howard came to Earth. The night he arrived, they were working on a laser spectroscope that was unintentionally aimed at Howard's planet. When they activated it, Howard was inadvertently transported to Earth. But they’re confident that they can send Howard home using the spectroscope again.
With Beverly accompanying them, the scientists bring Howard to their lab to send him home. You might think at this point that we would be wrapping up an incredibly strange story that managed to stay blessedly short. But no, sadly, we’re less than an hour in. There’s still more to come. Much more.
When they arrive at the lab, it’s complete pandemonium. Dr. Walter Jenning is caught in an explosion triggered by the spectroscope and disappeared. Principal Rooney really can't catch a break, can he?
Howard and Beverly find that Dr. Jenning survived the explosion, so the three of them escape the lab. Unfortunately, it turns out Jenning has contracted a violently crippling case of food poisoning!
No, no, he’s actually been possessed by an evil life form from outer space. It’s very easy to get those two confused.
Then, the newly possessed Jenning starts to get stronger and displays his awesome new powers by blowing up diner condiments.
After destroying a diner, Jenning kidnaps Beverly to use her body to bring another evil alien being to Earth. Howard is left behind and enlists his scientist friend to help him rescue Beverly.
During this time, Jenning continues to slowly morph into Doc Brown’s meth-addict cousin.
Howard and his scientist friend manage to arrive before Jenning can activate the spectroscope while the tied-up Beverly shouts helpful advice, such as: “Run, Howard! He’s in a bad mood!”
Biggest understatement of the century, honey.
Howard is able to blast Jenning with a disintegrator ray, but it only manages to force the alien being out of Jenning’s body. And weirdly enough, Jenning is just fine post-possession. It was stated in the movie that the alien killed him, and only his body remained. But he got better! From being dead!
But now they have to contend with this mutant scorpion monster.
Another blast ends up defeating the alien, and Howard destroys the spectroscope to prevent any more aliens from coming through.
This means Howard can never go back to his homeworld, so he remains on Earth and becomes the new manager of Beverly’s band. I have no idea how this works, but I can only assume that Howard conducts his meetings via phone only.
There’s no doubt that this a bad movie. The special effects are extremely low quality, and it's full of skin-crawling innuendos. It's campy, but I wouldn't call it the good kind of campy. And while this is trying to be a dark comedy, it's a little mean-spirited. You can't help but feel sorry for Howard because almost everyone he encounters mocks him at best or tries to kill/maim him at worst. Parents, even though this movie is rated PG, bear in mind that this was the 80s. Do not rent this for your seven-year-old's sleepover.
One of the common complaints about this movie is just how creepy Howard himself looks, and I would have to agree. It’s been speculated that Howard might have looked better if he was animated in the same vein as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I will give it this much, it is laughably bad, and it was a nice change of pace after last week’s slog that was Fant4stic. I just pray I won't be seeing that bedroom scene in my nightmares tonight. Or any duck boobies.
Rewind is an Inverse series that remembers the forgotten heroes we love.