Movie review: ‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane’

affI’ve done a roundup of seven bad sequels (click here to read it) and have casually mentioned in reviews about “crap” movies including anything by Sacha Baron Cohen or a stinker by a usually good actor (say, “Where the Buffalo Roam” with Bill Murray), but it took a run through the cable movie channel listings last week to dredge up the memory of a suppurating piece of dreck titled “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” to expand on the definition of cinematic “crap.” Andrew Dice Clay’s comedy of the time wasn’t then and isn’t now for everyone, but absolutely no one should have anything good to say about “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.”

‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane’
(1990; 104 minutes; rated R; directed by Renny Harlin and starring Andrew Dice Clay, Lauren Holly and Wayne Newton)

TAKING THE DEFINITION OF BAD TO A NEW LEVEL

It is difficult to know where to begin to criticize “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.” It is a bad movie on all levels: the acting stinks; the story has no creativity; the dialogue barely qualifies as spoken communication … so, all in all, today you’d most liken it to the Kardashians – sleaze with no redeeming characteristics. OK, so nothing’s as insipid, crass or an insult to human intelligence than the K-word but “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” comes close.

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Two actors (Gilbert Gottfried and Ed O’Neill) should have turned in their SAG cards from the sheer embarrassment brought on from their work in “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane,” while Wayne Newton, “Mr. Entertainment” himself, most likely still has nightmares when he even hears the title of the movie. It manages to even sully the reputation of the actor who plays “Freddy” in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise.

Of course the actors are easy targets in criticizing this stinker, but the majority of criticism should be heaped on director Renny Harlin. If judged solely on this film, you wouldn’t believe Harlin has any talent behind the camera – and since the rest of his career isn’t exactly sterling (can you say “Cutthroat Island?”), you probably wouldn’t be far off.

A quick roundup of the plot: Andrew Dice Clay plays “Ford Fairlane” (and he drives a convertible one, of course – actually a sweet ride) and he’s Hollywood’s rock ‘n’ roll private eye. He gets a case to find a girl who’s a groupie to a band and … ah, who cares. The plot doesn’t really make much sense and your intelligence will be so offended by the first 15 minutes of the movie that you won’t care about anything as trivial as the plot the rest of the way.

A lot of critics were quick to dump on Clay, who plays the title character as an extension of his stand-up comedy of the day. If you know Clay of the time (misogynistic, sarcastic, overly sexual), then you’ll know the character. However, Clay shouldn’t bear the brunt of the criticism. He’s just himself here and he’s always been a guy who says, “Here I am, take it or leave it.” Harlin just makes sure you have to leave him, even if you like his routines.

Two actors who shouldn’t have the film held against them are Lauren Holly, who plays Clay’s assistant “Jazz,” and Brandon Call, who is “the Kid” who sometimes hangs out with and emulates Clay. Both don’t allow the smell of the film stick to them and Holly at least appears to be trying and she was doing only her third film.

Here’s a rundown of some of the principal cast:

  • It’s too bad that this Clay “vehicle” didn’t do more for him. He can actually be endearing (watch “Casual Sex?” with Lea Thompson and SNL’s Victoria Jackson if you don’t believe me) and did an OK job in the sketch comedy film “Amazon Women on the Moon.” Too bad this one will define the valley of what passes for his career in Hollywood.
  • Newton as “Julian Grindle” is just terrible here and looks like a walking advertisement for funeral home cosmetics. Wow, that was harsh (but not untrue). I guess I dislike this film more than I thought to heap that kind of criticism on “Mr. Las Vegas.” Sorry, Wayne, you just can’t be as good as you were in “Vegas Vacation” (hey, wait a minute!).
  • Gottfried as DJ “Johnny Crunch” is just plain putrid here – he tries to be sarcastic and caustic, but he is just shrill, profane noise. His lines are awful; they are delivered with his trademark screech but no punch; and he’s obviously just cashing a check. He was in “A Million Ways to Die in the West” and was terrific in voicing “Iago” in Disney’s “Aladdin.”
  • I’m torn about the performance of Morris Day as music producer “Don Cleveland.” I’d like to believe he does at least a competent job, but he’s so smooth his work here could either be better or worse and it would be impossible to tell. If anything, you can say he’s watchable on screen. He was in “Purple Rain” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”
  • Priscilla Presley is lost in the flotsam of “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.” She’s just not that good to begin with and, like so many others here, should have done any other film that year than this one. Presley was better in the “Naked Gun” franchise and was in TV’s “Dallas.” She has been off Hollywood’s radar since 1999.
  • David Patrick Kelly plays the most aptly named character in the film: “Sam the Sleaze Bag.” Maybe the last two words should have been the movie’s title. Sleaze Bag. It fits. Anyway, Kelly knows how to play a twitchy weirdo (check him out in the “The Warriors” – click here for my review – or “Dreamscape”), but here he just comes off as silly, forced and incompetent.
  • Robert Englund, who is a legend as “Freddy Krueger” in the horror genre, isn’t miscast here as “Smiley” – he’s just afflicted with the “Ford Fairlane” curse. He looks terrible, acts terrible and has a terrible role. He actually tries to make something of it, but in the end he comes off as bad as anyone else. Back in the day he did a lot of television work including “Charlie’s Angels” and “CHiPs.”
  • Finally I come to O’Neill as “Lt. Amos.” Although both celebrated and vilified in equal parts for the character “Al Bundy” on TV’s “Married With Children,” he would walk away from that with his head held high because of its popularity (something he shouldn’t do with the supremely crappy “Modern Family”). Not so here. His disco singing and dancing is a farce mocking a farce and not doing a good job of it. Sorry, Ed, but you really misfired here. O’Neill was much better in “Dutch” – click here for my review.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” was the 58th ranked film of 1990 (that high?) with $21.4 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The No. 1 film was “Home Alone” with $285.7 million and the No. 2 was “Ghost” with Patrick Swayze with $217.6 million. Other films from the year that I have reviewed include “The Hunt for Red October” (No. 6 with $122 million – click here for my review), “My Blue Heaven” with Steve Martin (No. 53 with $23.5 million – click here for my review) and “Tremors” (No. 71 with $16.6 million – click here for my review).

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Rock star Billy Idol was originally cast as “Smiley,” but he was injured in a motorcycle accident and Harlin called in Englund.
  • In one of the few smart moves by filmmakers, radio shock-jock Howard Stern was reportedly offered the part given to Gottfried. Well, now you know it could have been even worse.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “After many letters of protest from classic-car enthusiasts, the film’s production company said that an actual ’57 Ford Fairlane was not blown up in the explosion; it was a fiberglass replica body placed on a newer Ford chassis.”
  • Just like the film, the trivia noted on the IMDb.com page is awful.

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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