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Rated PG
Copyright 1986 Universal Pictures and Lucasfilm Ltd. (you read that right)
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 24 June 2009 (updated)

The Characters:  

  • Howard T. Duck - He is the coolest duck to ever wear suspenders, but he will not eat eggs, be they white, yellow, green, or brown.
  • Beverly Switzler - Lea Thompson! She is a talented musician with big Van Halen hair, a heart of gold, and a soft spot for flightless waterfowl. She also owns a little porcelain Godzilla. I am in love. The only stuff I need for a successful courtship is suspenders and a feathered mullet.
  • Dr. Walter Jenning - Jeffrey Jones! His disastrous experiment with a laser spectroscope telescope is what brought Howard to Earth. Unfortunately, a subsequent experiment also causes him to become pregnant with one of the black demons of creation (long story, I'll get to it; keep your pants on).
  • Phil Blumburtt - Tim Robbins! Goofy fellow who wants to be a scientist someday, somehow, somewhere, in summertime.
  • Ronette, Cal, and K.C. - The other members of Beverly's band, which they call Cherry Bomb. Look, Cherry Bomb was not their first choice, but the names Bananarama, Vixen, the Bangles, and Winger were already taken.
  • Police Lt. Walker - He is on a mission to arrest that duck.
  • The Dark Overlords of the Universe - Galactic demons that look like they came straight out of a crabber's worst nightmare. Despite their frightening visages, one of the Overlords loses a jousting match against a duck driving a golf cart.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

This is a GREAT ducking movie! Howard is happily living out his life on Duckworld when something very unusual happens. He is suddenly sucked out of his cozy apartment, flung across an unimaginable galactic distance, and unceremoniously dumped into the hairy armpit (or other furry nether region - as you might wish to think of it) of planet Earth.

Sadly, Howard's La-Z-Boy recliner explodes into flames during the trans-galactic trip, so he arrives on Earth in severe need of backside relief. For those of you who are not familiar with La-Z-Boy products, they make it possible for overweight husbands to lounge in front of their televisions for days on end without developing bedsores. The sole drawback of these wondrous pieces of furniture is that they cannot be exposed to high levels of friction, such as: escape velocity, atmospheric reentry, or lovemaking (if flannel jammies are involved). Since most married couch potatoes define intimate contact as the hourly swapping of empty Budweiser bottles for new, cold ones, the likelihood of a flannel-generated conflagration is extremely low.

Anyway, our flightless waterfowl hero lands smack dab in the middle of Cleveland. He soon comes to Beverly's rescue when two punks try to molest her virtue. The walking, talking, manly duck from outer space does surprise the young woman, but she quickly recovers. After all, this is the Cleveland club scene, circa 1986. Beverly has probably seen weirder things before, during, and after a gig. Heck, she has probably seen weirder things in her refrigerator.

I have seen weirder things in my refrigerator. Leftover beef stew turns into liquid turmoil after a month, and green beans somehow turn into green goo that is still shaped like green beans after a few weeks. Interestingly, SpaghettiOs never mutate, decompose, or emulsify. They are almost as permanent as marshmallow peeps. Out of all of Man's creations, I wonder which will last the longest. It is a toss-up between the Pyramids of Giza and marshmallow peeps.

Anyway, Howard does not have any place to call home; Beverly takes him in out of a combination of curiosity and appreciation. She finds out that, no matter the planet, no matter the species, men are men. We love our parents, we need a picture of us posed with two women (one on each arm) to preserve our egos, and, for some ungodly reason, we believe that carrying a condom in our wallet is a symbol of masculine responsibility. Men are quackers. Howard is quackers. I'm a quacker. Wouldn't you like to be a quacker, too?

What Beverly cannot do for Howard is to help him find proof of intelligent life on Earth. She tries; she really tries. The field trip to meet with Phil at the museum is a complete debacle! Well, you cannot just stroll down the street with a three-foot-tall talking duck. Nor can you drag a squawking trash bag up the museum steps without attracting unwanted attention. Even worse, after Howard is freed from the trash bag, he comes face-to-face with Phil. He might work in a museum, but Mr. Blumburtt is the last person in the world who we want acting as the human emissary to a duck from outer space. Phil's an idiot. He means well, but he's still an idiot. The encounter with Blumburtt causes so much rancor that Beverly and her fine feathered fowl of a boyfriend have their first real fight. Both of them go their separate ways.

For those of you who are worrying that I missed the obvious midget in the sack moment, fear not, I saw it. What I do not understand is why a midget in a trash bag would cause my brain to release so much dopamine, nor do I care. All I know is that when I see a midget, I'm happy.

Cast adrift upon a world awash in barely evolved apes, Howard gets a job through the state unemployment agency. Where do they place him? In a hot tub spa, which means lots of (mostly) hairless apes engaging in activities plainly intended to create even more hairless apes. That is no place for a duck who wants to make something out of his life. Howard quits the hot tub job and rescues the Cherry Bombs from their sleezoid manager. Doing that makes Beverly really appreciative of her little friend, so much that she is ready to engage in a little friendly ape-on-duck action to see if various things (ice, syrup, etc.) also roll off Howard's back. Just then Phil bursts in with Dr. Jenning and some other guy. The scientists know how Howard came to Earth. They might be able to send him back via the same piece of science: a huge telescope thing that they call a laser spectroscope.

Why, oh why, did the scientists build their laser spectroscope in the middle of Cleveland? Maybe they were worried that it might create a black hole that would swallow the planet. If that was the case, then I can understand them deciding, "Well, if the planet could be destroyed, at least Cleveland should be the first thing to go."

The second laser spectroscope experiment goes just as awry as the first, but instead of an anthropomorphic duck being added to Earth's population, Dr. Jenning becomes the unwilling host to a Dark Overlord of the Universe. Cleveland's finest respond to the reports of unlicensed laser spectroscopy duck snatching at the laboratory, so Howard, Beverly, and Jenning become fugitives from justice. They end up at a 24-hour truck stop diner that specializes in sushi.

Before we go on, I have to say that the whole plenary of that diner scares me.

Howard's life goes from bad to worse at the diner. Dr. Jenning is having a tough time with his unexpected pregnancy. One moment he is gloating over the complete extinction of all terrestrial life (once he gains his full Dark Overlord powers), and the next he is sad because the waitress took away his plate of fried eggs. Generally, he is a public nuisance, albeit a funny one. Howard's worst problem is that he gets into an altercation with a group of rowdy duck hunters. The resulting fracas brings the police running again. It allows Jenning, who is looking more and more like a genestealer cultist, to take Beverly and the code key to the laser spectroscope.

After the diner clears out, Beverly is stuck in a big rig with evil possessed Jenning. Remember the movie "Convoy?" Did you ever wonder what would have happened if Kris Kristofferson had Drew Barrymore's "Firestarter" powers? You get to see that when Jenning the partial Dark Overlord of the Universe encounters a police checkpoint. Meanwhile, Howard commandeers an ultralight to chase after his purloined Bevster. He might not be a natural flyer, but the duck is definitely a menace to anything carrying a shotgun (police, duck hunters, hicks).

The final confrontation between Howard and the Dark Overlord takes place at the observatory. Earth's feathery saviour is armed with an experimental particle weapon and a golf cart (no really, a golf cart). The cosmic demon has fangs, claws, spikes, psychic energy blasts, and an extremely foul temper. Should the Dark Overlord win, Earth will become a charnel house, but if Howard can triumph, then a thousand years of pop rock will follow.

Sorry, I am just kidding about the millennium of pop rock. Howard winning does not have any drawbacks. We all want Howard to win.

Most people either hate this film, or love it. It is ridiculous, it is a special effects bonanza, and it is incredibly '80s. I love it. Oh, I'm probably going to make a few bad duck jokes and puns during this review. Forewarned is forearmed. If you are wondering why the last two sentences are at the bottom of the review, that is because I cut them from the beginning and pasted them down here. I hate being predictable.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • Angry bald men with baseball bats are Nature's way of saying that prices are too high.
  • Earth has a vagina, and at the bottom of that vagina is Cleveland.
  • Falling stars are actually hapless waterfowl burning up as they reenter the atmosphere.
  • The universal language
  • Punk fashion was just a cover for transvestitism.
  • Ducks are really good at Mercy.
  • Watching "Late Night with David Letterman" is considered foreplay.
  • Hallucinations involving talking flightless waterfowl are what finally got Robert Downey Jr. off of drugs (well, for a little while).
  • A 50/50 blend of cotton and polyester can survive direct exposure to an atomic furnace.
  • Becoming a Dark Overlord of the Universe requires a valid CDL.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 2 mins - Duckweed! Ha! Ha, ha, ha! Ah! Don't hit me! I'm sorry!
  • 12 mins - You are talking to a three-foot tall, anthropomorphic duck that is skilled in karate. Are you sure?
  • 23 mins - Call him "Meat," he loves it when you call him "Meat."
  • 25 mins - That bear looks like it's dead.
  • 35 mins - How did Howard get a drink that fast?
  • 39 mins - She's Jewish?
  • 62 mins - Howard, you are a great duck and all, but I could never take you out to a Denny's at 4 AM. That's a serious bummer of a drawback.
  • 96 mins - Who woke that thing up on the wrong side of creation?
  • 102 mins - Call me cataract, but I just now noticed Beverly's giant scallop earring.
  • Ending Credits - Hey, they put the special effects guys' credits BEFORE the actors!

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note howardduck1.wav Howard: "That's it. No more Mr. Nice Duck!" **QUACK FU POWERUP SOUNDS** "Let the female creature go! Every duck's got his limit, and you scum have pushed me over the line."
Punk: "Jimmy, do you like see what I see? A talking duck!"
Green Music Note howardduck2.wav Howard: "This is obviously no place for an intelligent, sensitive duck."
Beverly: "This is unreal. I mean, it can't be."
Howard: "Thanks."
Beverly: "You're not really a...a duck?"
Howard: "You know, this is beginning to seriously undermine my self-esteem."
Green Music Note howardduck3.wav Phil: "Me Phil, you Howard, we be friends." **PHIL TRIES TO SPEAK DONALD DUCK**
Howard: "Undoubtedly one of Earth's greatest minds here."
Green Music Note howardduck4.wav Dr. Jenning: "Partway through the experiment there was a deviation, and we lost control of the laser spectroscope."
Howard: "What do you mean, 'lost control?'"
Dr. Jenning: "Some unknown force was redirecting the laser beam from its original target so that it hit your planet instead."
Howard: "Hit my planet? How about hit my living room! Talk about an invasion of privacy!"
Green Music NoteTheme Song Listen to a clip from the soundtrack.

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Cliphowardduck1.mpg - 5.7m
Howard might just be a little pond hopper, but he is sure giving that galactic demon a what for.

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