Warner Archives (6/20/17):
JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990)
NEW 2017 1080p HD REMASTER BD50
COLOR - 102 Minutes
ORIGINAL ASPECT RATIO - 2.40:1, 16 X 9 LETTERBOX
DTS HD-Master English 5.1 Stereo
Theatrical Trailer (HD)
Vintage Behind the Scenes Featurette
Music Video - Sixteen Tons w/ Eric Burdon
"I had not seen this movie before. Most movies, I have seen before. Most movies, you have seen before. Most movies are constructed out of bits and pieces of other movies, like little engines built from cinematic Erector sets. But not 'Joe Versus the Volcano.' - Roger Ebert
My earliest memory of seeing a trailer for JOE VS. THE VOLCANO was not on the big screen but on Viewer’s Choice Pay-Per-View. Before rewatching it within the past few years, all I remembered was not being too crazy about it, when I first watched the film as an adolescent. The trailer had me intrigued at the sight of Tom Hanks’ dark-haired mullet and that “guy from AIRPLANE!” wanting to hire a man by the name of Joe to jump into a volcano. But its sense of humor at the time might’ve alluded me despite loving the pairing of both Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, the latter of which seemed to accrue a minor backlash due to her manic-pixie ways in the world of romantic comedies. To this day I remain a fan of hers due to an appreciation for her work in the underseen gems FLESH AND BONE and IN THE CUT, both of which are far removed from her fresh comic delivery established in the early 90s. And along with a defense of Ryan going back to my first viewing, I was also a fan of silly Tom Hanks due to THE MONEY PIT. So why didn’t this movie click with me back when I was 11 years old?
I’m not sure exactly, but rewatching it with a friend who has dubbed it one of his all-time favorite movies somehow felt very different after about a 20-year gap of not having seen it. John Patrick Shanley’s magic as an endlessly inventive writer worked on me from frame one. The setup initially feels like slow burn Gilliam mixed with MODERN TIMES or some kind of otherworldly precursor version of CAST AWAY. The film is mannered, but it's also beautifully paced, playing with loopy existentialism and bizarre staging, so fizzy and unusual that it frequently doesn't register how acerbic and twisted the bones of the story actually are. I find myself enamored with the ridiculously repetitive absurdity from the immortal Dan Hedaya as well as Meg Ryan’s over-the-top Brooklyn accent and bad wig. The sharp, dark comic tone is refreshing as opposed to off-putting and I eventually become emotionally overwhelmed by the time Joe is lost adrift at the sight of that big, beautiful moon on the horizon. Overwhelmed to the point of tears. After two decades, JOE VS. THE VOLCANO is now one of my favorite movies, and it’s still a messy enigma in some ways. I defended it on a podcast once where admittedly, its lunacy is an acquired taste. Maybe like the comedy style of a director like David Wain to some degree, where it forgoes logic and shoots for the ridiculous. Sometimes it feels like a cartoon with the “Good Lovin” fishing sequence along with the ultimate payoff shot, and other times, it is calm and reflective asking big questions in ways that never feel preachy or pedantic. Some of the very best interactions involve the great Ozzie Davis (essentially as an angel) and then later, a luggage salesman. The movie is a series of off-kilter comic set pieces that at times, speak to my own personal philosophy to the point of being life-affirming. There’s no denying that I’ve been eagerly awaiting a Blu-Ray release so I can bask in its glory and relive the magic of one of my new favorite comedies, and Warner Archives has done a terrific job with the transfer.
A lot of movies have the underlying message of “Conquer your fears and better your life.” The grandaddy of them all might be DEFENDING YOUR LIFE in my book, but this one comes very close to being a dark comic masterpiece that deserves to be rediscovered and embraced far more than it was upon its initial release. The movie has this wonderful "unstuck in time" feel. It's like a screwball romantic comedy from the '40s collided into the selfish consumerism of the '80s. It’s a wonderful journey of self-discovery that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and certainly by the end contains little plausibility, but that only adds to its charm rather than subtracts. I’m grateful to friend and film critic Collin Souter for his love of this film, is exactly what excited me about seeing it again for the second time in his company projected on the wall in his apartment. It will forever be cemented in my life as an all-time great existential comedy of the highest caliber that I can’t wait to watch over and over again, and share with as many people as possible. A