Howard the Duck (1986) Review

“In the Beginning there was… Howard the Duck!”, I wonder if Wilard Huyck and George Lucas were anticipating the future success of Marvel studios when they decided to utter these lines in such a biblical fashion. Perhaps they thought that Howard would bring a new era of comic motion pictures that were non stop blockbusters that would cater to both adults and children alike. “Howard the Duck” was, in every sense, the furthest it could possibly be from this picture of family entertainment.

Howard, who is played by multiple little people and even occasionally a tall person, is an extraterrestrial duck who is very comfortably living out his less than impressive life in his apartment, watching TV and drinking beer. When a machine on earth pulls him back to Earth, he has to deal with the terror that is the 1980s. He manages to save a girl, Beverly (Lea Thompson) from some thugs and manages to weasel his way into staying at her apartment. The rest of the film is concerned with getting Howard back to his planet.

This — this is inspired, a plot to end all plots. Why do they even bother making movies only to be overshadowed by this gem of film lurking in the shadows. Oh wait, I’m kidding, and unless you are a goldfish, you already knew that. That is an example of an awful joke. Awful jokes is the name of the game with “Howard the Duck”. If you enjoy endless duck puns, you should thank me because I have informed you of a movie that just suits you down to the ground. To the normal population though, stay away.

This is a movie about a duck, so why are there so many mature jokes in here? Of course I’m aware that animated movies now have a habit of putting in somewhat adult in jokes for the parents watching with their kids. That’s OK and usually rather amusing, I watched “Shrek” again last week and I couldn’t believe everything they had slipped into that fantastic movie. Where a joke about a tower compensating for a small man’s penis size can indeed go right over a child’s head, as it should, a shot of a female duck with clear and visible breasts — Not duck breasts, human breasts that happen to be duck coloured — just for the sake of indicating that she is naked, will not go over a child’s head. A breast is a breast, nudity is nudity, and this is creepy and unnecessary.

Clearly if the film was marketed towards adults then this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Some may say that the film is more for adults than kids, because of the dark dingy tone and the beer guzzling star. So, we are in one of two places. “Howard the Duck” is either a kids movie with inappropriate nudity and sexual content, or it’s an adult movie starring an anthropomorphic duck. This is why demographics are considered before you start to make these sorts of mistakes.

The movie is a decent length too, or at least it feels like it. There is a point halfway through this movie that in any other film I would think “there is no way that this will be the end”, but because I wanted Howard to quit while he was behind, I guess I had vague hope that it would be. This point is barely half way into the film, that’s right. I felt like the movie should have been well over about 40-50 minutes into it. The rest of it feels like tacked on rubbish with a silly villain thrown in to keep things going for a while longer.

Oh yes! The love interest! Every movie needs one, am I right? Well “Howard the Duck” definitely didn’t need one, but for us lucky folk in front of the screen it has provided us with one anyway. Lea Thompson seems unable to fall for normal fellas. First, she fell in love with her son in “Back to the Future” and this time around I half expected her to shout “I have the hots for my Duck!”. I shouldn’t have to say it, but this is just wrong and it isn’t handled in a comedic way, or at least not a convincing one which would have made it at least somewhat valid. It actually creates one of the creepiest scenes I have ever seen, in which Howard tells Beverley “Maybe it’s not a man you should be looking for” which causes her to try and have sex with him. The feathers, the ruffling, the chaffing, nothing is considered by this despicable worshipper of all things bestial.

The film isn’t goofy enough to be interesting, it just keeps on kicking, like an embryo wearing high heels. If you want something goofy then watch “Back to the Future”. You get all the Lea Thompson and the only mention of poultry is when Marty is compared to one. “Howard the Duck” just makes me miss everything that is so much better.

Why oh why did they place the “D” so close to the “F” on the keyboard? Maybe I could use this incessant typo to my own advantage to describe my feelings upon the credits rolling:

Howard, the F**k?


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