It's not just that HOWARD THE DUCK is a bad movie. That would be fine -- I love "bad" movies, savoring them the way a connoisseur might linger over a fine wine, porterhouse steak, or other delicacy. Bad movies are my life to a degree: GALAXY OF TERROR, WEB OF THE SPIDER, Spaghetti Westerns, Turkish made super hero ripoffs with guys running around in skeleton suits, Mexican wrestling horror with some freak in a silver mask fighting vampire babes. Love 'em.
The problem with HOWARD THE DUCK has to do with proportions. You might even say "Less is More" when it comes to a good grade C minus movie, especially if it manages to leave you wanting more. With HOWARD, you want less. Far less. After about the third car chase, the fifth fistfight, countless pyrotechnic telekinesis attacks, the ultra-light aircraft chase, the runaway Mack truck, and the big climax at the exploding nuclear plant, you sort of want to reach into the screen and make it all stop. And even then the movie isn't over, as we are treated to a genuinely nightmare inducing scene of Howard wowing the audience at a rock concert with his Chuck Berry impersonation as his unspeakably jaw-dropping awful signature pop song plays.
Who thought this movie was a good idea? George Lucas? He can't solely be to blame. Gloria Katz? She had co-written "American Graffiti" and "Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom". How did she have also written this? Or better yet, WHY did she right this? Her husband, director Willard Huyck? His career was more or less finished after HOWARD THE DUCK (shades of "You'll never work again in this town.") even after he too had co-written "American Graffiti" & the "Indiana Jones" movie. In 1972 Huyck directed a marvelous little grade C zombie schlocker called MESSIAH OF EVIL (originally titled DEAD PEOPLE) that has one of the most insanely brutal & artistically unexpected endings to a horror movie ever. It's a marvelous little horror thriller, deserves to be resurrected, but THIS is the film he will be remembered for.
It's a shame, see, because on their own -- even with former film school classmate George Lucas in cahoots -- they could not have raised the $36 million dollars ($50 million in today money) it took to finance this movie, and the additional nine million to promote it: $45 million dollars, down the drain. Urban legend has it that some poor schmuck of a Universal Films studio chief who green-lighted the project quit and eventually attempted suicide over the 100% deserving negative reaction that HOWARD THE DUCK engendered within those who, for whatever reason, were compelled to see it. The public very wisely stayed at home, yet HOWARD inexplicably accumulated a passionate, massive cult following as a video era relic that I am at a loss to account for.
The point being that not just someone, but LEGIONS of devoted, thoughtless, sycophantic film industry professionals, craftspeople, and talent apparently did think that HOWARD THE DUCK was a good idea. Track down the German DVD and check out the "Duckumentary Teaser" where Hollywood big mouth actor Tim Robbins speaks raves about HOWARD. He was convinced it was the movie experience of the year, maybe even his lifetime, and indeed Robbins pours his heart and soul into a frenetic, meaningless performance as some sort of biologist who helps Howard save the world from a giant mass of protoplasm & tendrils that looks like Jabba the Hutt turned inside out. At least Jeffery Jones has the insanity clause working in his defense if HOWARD THE DUCK ever comes up during a job interview.
The movie is a loud, annoying, incoherent, seemingly never ending mess. It goes on and on, with more mayhem and destruction staged for untold millions of dollars that all amounts to absolutely nothing. The most disturbing aspect of the film is actually Howard the Duck himself, a two million dollar animatronic duck costume inhabited by a series of little people... and because little people move in a certain way, whenever Howard is on screen you are painfully aware that what you are watching is an effect: A dwarf in a really expensive duck costume. He never convinces as a character and will seep into your nightmares as he scuttles across the floor, dodging an exploding golf cart or piloting an ultra-light aircraft overhead as police cars careen & crash into bits, wasting millions of dollars of needless waste in their swath of destruction. And then there are the expensively detailed sets, props, effects sequences, stunts, robotic thingamajobs, and exploding electronics that punctuate every possible frame of the movie's gob smacking 140 minute length. The level of waste and manic futility is biblical in nature; this movie is bad on the scale of Iraq, the Dark Ages, Kraft Foods, graduate school, and MySpace all wrapped up into one self-indulgent, nauseating craptacular.
There is no way to verbally describe how annoying, excruciating, and utterly un-enjoyable this movie is to sit through. It can't even be enjoyed as a "good bad" movie or inspire drinking games to turn it into a lark. You have to endure it the way one endures doing your taxes, or maybe having a manual prostate examination. There are certainly "worse" movies, but not many that are on the same scale. That's why it will forever be regarded in hushed awe when other mega-bomb stinkeroos like the remake of ROLLERBALL, JOHN Q., and CROSSROADS with Britney Spears have long been forgotten. And yet by all evidence available from the time of release, everyone involved with the production was 100% convinced that HOWARD THE DUCK would be a blockbuster hit.
210: You're also crazy if you live have to have this on DVD, and I am frightened by how many people apparently do.
Review by Steve Nyland from the Internet Movie Database.