.

Joe Versus the Volcano

Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges

Directed by John Patrick Shanley
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 0
Community: star rating
5 0 0
March 9, 1990

Nothing too weird here. Tom Hanks is just a working stiff named Joe whose doctor (Robert Stack) tells him he has a short time to live. Hearing the news, Joe accepts an offer from a businessman (Lloyd Bridges). In exchange for a few days of fun on Bridges's credit cards, Joe will go to a South Seas island – the source of a mineral Bridges needs for his business – and jump in a volcano. The natives require a human sacrifice; their chief (Abe Vigoda) can't find any volunteers. So Bridges brings in Hanks. It's good public relations and, hell, what's Joe got to lose?

Joe Versus the Volcano is a fiasco made by an extremely talented man. Playwright John Patrick Shanley, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for Moonstruck, can inject gritty reality into scenes of the purest gossamer. The drudgery of Joe's office, with Dan Hedaya hilarious as a boss who keeps repeating the same line on the phone ("I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?"), is shrewdly evoked. Hanks, as ever, turns a comic line with effortless grace. And Meg Ryan, playing three vastly different women in his life, has rarely been more appealing.

The catch is that Shanley, making his debut as a director, simply can't do the job. There's no sense of pacing or fore-thought; scenes seem thrown together. Individually the actors are fine, but Shanley can't blend their divergent styles. Things reach the unendurable level when Joe hits the tropics, and we're treated to antics of orange-drink-guzzling half-Jewish natives, led by Vigoda, that could shame Gilligan's Island. Somewhere along the line, Shanley let his gentle fable about the fear of love, responsibility and commitment degenerate into crude farce. And he has only himself to blame.

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    • Child of God
      star rating
      Well Go USA Entertainment
    • lucy
      star rating
      Universal Pictures
    • star rating
      IFC Films
    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Love Is the Answer”

    Utopia | 1977

    The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com