Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star in the fantasy JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

I'm a big fan of Hanks and Ryan's SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993) and YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998), which I consider modern classics, and I'm particularly fond of YOU'VE GOT MAIL, which made my 10 Favorites of the Last 25 Years post in 2014.

Somehow, though, I'd never caught up with this first Hanks-Ryan collaboration; I think that over the years the plot description put me off. Joe (Hanks) is told he's dying and agrees to jump into a volcano? And Ryan plays three people? The concept just didn't grab me.

The Warner Archive release was the perfect time to finally try it. I must admit that during the first 20 minutes or so I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. The movie was visually ugly, annoying, and depressing.

Hypochondriac Joe works at a stupid job in a filthy building with awful fluorescent lighting, and then a doctor (Robert Stack) tells him he has a "brain cloud" (okaaaaay) which will kill him in a few months. Soon after, a crazy rich man (Lloyd Bridges) offers Joe unlimited credit cards if he'll agree to jump in the previously mentioned volcano.

After that the cloud which hangs over the movie itself begins to lift, as Hanks shapes up (boy, did he need that haircut), the visuals become colorful and appealing, and Joe likewise begins to meet colorful and interesting people in his journey, starting with a limo driver named Marshall (Ossie Davis).

Ryan's initial character, as a secretary in Joe's office, looked so different I had to look it up to make sure it was her! Though she was very un-Ryan, she wasn't very interesting, but Ryan's second character, the rich man's redheaded artist daughter, was quite amusing; later, the artist's half-sister looks and sounds like the Ryan we know and love.

The movie is on the crazy side but as its 102 minutes unspool the viewer comes to realize that it's a fairy tale of sorts about trying to live with appreciation (or "amazement," as Ryan says at one point) and setting aside fear -- and, as the modern saying goes, "live your best life."

I ultimately found the movie upbeat and weirdly charming, well worth checking out. The film's message would pair very well on a double bill with another '90s film from my 10 Favorites of the Last 25 Years list, GROUNDHOG DAY (1993).

JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. It was filmed by Stephen Goldblatt. The excellent score was by Georges Dellerue and Peter Gordon.

The supporting cast also includes Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya, Amanda Plummer, and Nathan Lane.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is a lovely widescreen print. Extras carried over from the original DVD release are the trailer, a featurette, and a music video.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

1 Comments:

Blogger Seth said...

Last month I borrowed the DVD version from the library and had much the same reaction you did, wondering what I'd gotten into at the beginning but enjoying the whole experience by the end. For me, the cameos by Stack, Bridges, Davis and Vitoria helped to add to that quirky charm.

11:31 PM  

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