This is a deeply, deeply silly film. But it takes being silly deeply, deeply seriously.
Peter Weller is Buckaroo Banzai: brain surgeon, physicist, rock star, fighter of evil. He and his merry men, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, fight to save the world from destruction caused by a war between the Black Lectroids (good aliens) and the Red Lectroids (bad aliens). The deadpan cast includes good guys Jeff Goldblum and Ellen Barkin, and, on the side of evil, John Lilthgow and Christ…pher Lloyd, effectively playing each other. The characters treat the insane goings on as normal, just another adventure for Buckaroo (who, we discover, has his own comic book as well). The result is a comedy that manages to be simultaneously over the top and low key.
The audio is truly special, all the more so considering the film is seventeen years old. The music and sound effects are given powerful surround mixes, but the dialogue is always clear, and there is zero distortion. The left-right separation is spectacular, as well. When Buckaroo’s jet car speeds toward you, the sound roars in from the front left to the rear right. Incredible.
The picture is very nice as well, faithfully preserving the 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. The contrasts are sharp (even with some of that eighties pastel thing occasionally creeping in), and the flesh tones are natural. There are no transfer flaws of any kind, and the layer transitions (there are two, if you watch the version with the extended opening) are not too disruptive.
The menu is scored and animated on the main page, mimicking the console of the jet car. As for extras, this disc is loaded, and maintains the off-beat humour of the feature. All of the extras pretend that Buckaroo is, in fact, real, and that the film is a docudrama. Therefore, in the director’s commentary, W.D. Richter talks with scripter Earl Mac Rauch who speaks not as himself but as one of Buckaroo’s sidekicks. The two discuss how closely the film mirrored reality, while keeping the talk scene specific. There is a fair bit of information, but the schtick does sometimes get in the way, and the commentary has a tendency to belabour the obvious at times. The documentary, which incorporates the original “Making Of” promo piece, keeps up the joke, covering all sorts of technical aspects of the film, but always keeping the pretence that the events depicted actually happened.
Tired of the usual subtitle choices? Select “Pinky Carruther’s Unknown Facts” and you get subtitles giving you further lunatic background on all the characters. If you still want more about the characters, there’s “Personal Profile” for more on Buckaroo, and “Character Profiles” for more on everyone else, including characters who never show up in the film. If you still want more, the Banzai Institute Access will give you schematics of the base of operations, and the “Jet Car All Access” covers the car. The car also shows up in a computer animated trailer for the TV series.
Okay, what else? There’s a photo gallery, 14 deleted scenes, and the teaser trailer. There is also the alternate opening, and I strongly recommend watching the film in this, rather than the theatrical version. You get more back story, and a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo from Jamie Lee Curtis. Finally, there are even some Nuon enhanced features.
Tell me you don’t need more.
This disc is more than simply a feature-enhanced presentation of the film. It runs with the film’s main idea, elaborating the mythology of Buckaroo Banzai much further than I would have thought possible. Great fun.
Special Features List
- Alternate Opening
- “Declassified” Documentary
- Deleted Scene Archives
- Character Profiles
- Banzai Institute Archives
- Pinky Carruther’s Unknown Facts
- Nuon Enhanced Features
- Photo Gallery
- Personal Profile