One of Steven Spielberg’s most underrated films is not only a virtuoso piece of filmmaking but a flagrant piece of mean-spiritedness and teenage irreverence that underlines aspects of his work that his more popular and commercially successful works tend to either disguise or rationalize. Both of these qualities are partially the contributions of cowriter Robert Zemeckis – who exhibits these traits more independently on such later features as <![CDATA[<i>]]>Used Cars<![CDATA[</i>]]> (1980) and <![CDATA[<i>]]>Forrest Gump<![CDATA[</i>]]> (1994). But there’s also a strain that one might associate with the more progressive and Tashlinesque reflexes of a Joe Dante, helping to explain why John Wayne not only refused indignantly to play in this comedy but also tried to persuade Spielberg that making such a movie was tantamount to spitting on the American flag. In Spielberg’s hands, much of the comedy here seems to derive from a desire to see large sets destroyed as if they were Tinker toy constructions, complete with tutti-frutti mixtures of splattered paint, and without the messy inconvenience of either deaths or morals. But there’s also a smaller-scale, notational form of comedy at play here. Like me, Spielberg grew up on “Mad” when it was still a comic book, and the hallmark of its 1950s pictorial style, which he’s clearly emulating here, is to stuff wisecracks that scoff at authority figures into
the edges of the frames. There’s also a cartoonist tradition harking all the way back to Rube Goldberg (1883–1970) in which monstrously complicated machines perform simple tasks in strangely convoluted ways. And much of the cast here is seminal: John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, John Candy, Robert Stack, Toshiro Mifune, Christopher Lee, Warren Oates, Slim Pickens, and even Sam Fuller.
This film is screened together with <filmlink id=\"3124\">Two Tars</filmlink>.