Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane has to rank among the most poorly-received films of all time.  The movie was ripped to shreds by critics and failed to perform at the box office.  Many protested the fact that it was released at all, aiming politically correct arrows at Andrew Dice Clay's offensive persona.  Let's be clear: the movie is vulgar and boasts numerous lewd jabs that are guaranteed to bother sensitive viewers.  Gays and women are among the primary targets of the lead character's off-color humor, but there are plenty of jokes to go around and it might not be easy to identify any particular segment of humanity that isn't targeted by some of the zingers generously sprinkled throughout the picture.  Having said all that, the question remains: is The Adventures of Ford Fairlane any good?  Honestly, I think it's a minor classic of sorts.  Clay (whose stand-up has always been rather hit-or-miss) is perfect as the lead, a private dick who specializes in cases that involve the music industry.  Ford's keen detective skills aren't as apparent as his love for one-liners and his inability to control his raging libido, but maybe a lack of motivation is to blame--his rock star clients tend to pay him with gifts and memorabilia as opposed to cash.  Wayne Newton is superb as the slimy villain.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I'll say it again: Wayne Newton is superb in this movie.  If it had fared better, who knows what his sleazy turn as a corrupt and murderous producer would have done for his acting career.  Robert Englund generates a lot of laughs as a kooky henchman, and Ed O'Neill damn near steals the show as a smarmy cop who can't stand Dice's cocky P.I.--the scene where he finally reveals the origins of his animosity toward Fairlane is one of my favorite parts of the movie.  There are a few decent action sequences and Renny Harlin probably did his best job as a director with this glitzy exercise in style and excess.  Yes, those who are easily bothered by such material should steer clear of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, but those who like dirty jokes and obnoxious comedies will find that this much maligned feature film from 1990 is funny, cool, and exciting in equal measures.  It's very offensive, to be sure, but it is also very entertaining, and it remains one of my favorite comedies 25 years after it limped into theaters.

Final Grade: A

One of my favorite aspects of this vulgar comedy is the antagonistic
relationship between Dice's private detective and O'Neill's stiff cop.
Their exchanges are priceless.

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