Howard the Duck

Year: 1986
Production Co: Lucasfilm
Studio: Universal
Director: William Huyck
Producer: George Lucas/Gloria Katz
Writer: Steve Gerber/Willian Huyck
Cast: Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, Jeffrey Jones
George Lucas is routinely described as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, and there's no argument that he is, but if you need any more proof of his quite infantile taste in films (besides Jar Jar Binks), look no further than the train crash that is Howard the Duck.

It's an ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-executed movie about a parallel world to our own populated by humanoid ducks, complete with a New York City-style metropolis full of everyday shmoes like Howard who just want to keep their head down and make a living.

When Howard's projected into deep space by a scientific experiment across the galaxy and sucked through a spacetime warp (this was before the word 'wormhole' entered our cultural consciousness) he falls to Earth.

It's the last place he wants to be, picked on because of his stature and the way he looks, so he latches onto to faux-rebellious but way to sweet punk rocker Beverley (Thompson) who takes him in and gives him a place to hide.

The experiment in question has taken place at the laboratory workplace of Beverley's irritating friend Phil (Robbins, in full drama class idiot mode) and accused kiddy-fiddler Jeffrey Jones, and with Beverley's help, Howard has to reach the lab to be there for the second experiment, the only chance to send him home.

On paper, everything about Howard the Duck looks workable; a comedy about a sarcastic alien being, bought to Earth against his will and trying to escape to his homeworld again with the help of a beautiful leading lady and some egghead scientists.

It had the potential for it all; sci-fi, thrills, even romance. But the pseudo-sexual relationship between Howard and Beverley is just icky, the scientific/sci-fi aspects are idiotic, and the characters are poorly drawn.

This was Lucas' own Heaven's Gate or Hudson Hawk, one that promised big things but which audiences stayed away from in droves (understandably when you watch it). It's not clear what went wrong with the process because there's none of the apparent choppiness that's usually the result of panicked reshoots, rescripting or eleventh-hour editing. It seems to be exactly the way Lucas and his producers intended, but still bombed with a clunk that resonated across Hollywood and proved one of the surest bets in the movie world fallible.

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