Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Johnny Dangerously

Michael Keaton was riding a creative high after brilliant performances in NIGHT SHIFT and MR. MOM when he took on this dud for director Amy Heckerling (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH). Luckily, Keaton rebounded a year later with GUNG HO and, after a couple of bombs, BEETLEJUICE, his terrific dramatic turn in CLEAN AND SOBER, and then BATMAN.

An odd premise for an BLAZING SADDLES-style spoof, JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY is a spoof of 1930s gangster pictures with a screenplay credited to Harry Colomby (Keaton’s manager), Norman Steinberg (BLAZING SADDLES), and sitcom guys Jeff Harris and Bernie Kukoff (DIFF’RENT STROKES). Keaton is good gangster Dangerously, just trying to financially support his mother (Maureen Stapleton) and younger brother (Griffin Dunne). On the, er, opposite side of the law is mean rival Danny Vermin, played by SNL’s Joe Piscopo in his first big feature role. The only character anyone remembers is mob boss Roman Moronie (Richard Dimitri from the Mel Brooks sitcom WHEN THINGS WERE ROTTEN), who swears in malapropisms like “fargin’ icehole.”

Audiences weren’t taken with JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY, a box office flop that opened with just 65% of the per-screen gross of BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, which also premiered Christmas weekend of 1984. The flashback structure is weak, partially because it keeps Keaton and the other main players off-screen for much of the first act. Keaton is good and his co-stars work hard — too hard. You can see them scrambling for laughs at times. The toilet jokes push the then-new PG-13 rating to its limit (an extended gag about men with testicles the size of beach balls feels like someone is stomping on yours). Surprisingly, Dimitri’s hamming always gets laughs.

Marilu Henner (TAXI) is sexy as the love interest. Stapleton is awful as the cliched sweet old lady who curses and talks about getting laid, as if that joke was ever funny. Poor Glynnis O’Connor (ODE TO BILLY JOE) is criminally wasted. Danny DeVito, just off ROMANCING THE STONE, is a crooked district attorney. Peter Boyle (YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN), Ron Carey (HIGH ANXIETY), and Dom DeLuise (BLAZING SADDLES) are here to remind you of Mel Brooks movies. Alan Hale from GILLIGAN’S ISLAND is an Irish cop, along with Ray Walston (from Heckerling’s FAST TIMES), Joe Flaherty (SCTV), Taylor Negron (THE LAST BOY SCOUT), and...Bob Eubanks? “Weird” Al Yankovic’s theme song is pretty good.

1 comment:

Grant said...

"...the cliched sweet old lady who curses and talks about getting laid, as if that joke was ever funny."

To me, nearly the only actress who ever carried off that joke in a REALLY funny way was Judith Lowry (and I'm not the only one who thinks so).