Tom Hanks Project – “Volunteers” Review

3 Dec

volunteers posterRemember how much we loved the Hanks-Candy combo in “Splash?” Well, Candy ruined all that goodwill and then some with his “Tom Tuttle from Tacoma” role*. He’s so aggressively unlikable, and paired with Hanks’ Lawrence Bourne the III, who is detestable in a different, but almost as unenjoyable way, I think we have a new least favorite Hanks movie**. There were a couple moments that we genuinely found funny, but there was also a guy who talked to his knife (who he named Mike) and overall***, it was legitimately difficult to sit through the movie, even though it was less than an hour and forty minutes****. And for a movie where Tom started an off-screen love affair with his future wife of 20 years+, you’d think they’d have better on-screen chemistry.

*The G.D. WORST!

**I’m still on the fence. I think I disliked Bachelor Party more, but both are really awful.

***He also almost raped Rita Wilson. I mean….what?!

****It felt like a lifetime.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 9.35.37 AM

The film starts with Hanks as Lawrence Bourne III in the final days before his Yale graduation. He’s playing in a high-stakes poker game with some shady characters, making 5-figure bets on a Lakers-Celtics regular season game, and locking his roommate out of their room so he can have loud sex*. He listens on a portable radio at his graduation and finds out he now owes some scary bookies upwards of 20k. His father not only refuses to help him, but wishes he was adopted. As a last ditch resort, Bourne convinces his roommate to let him take his spot on a plane to a third world country to volunteer for the Peace Corps. So far, so good.

*They easily could have worked this noise into Hanksgiving. It was his classic “hollering Hanks” noise. Gross, you guys.hanksplaneWith a grating “rich heir” accent*, Bourne thinks he’s charming the pants off of everyone he meets, including his future wife Rita Wilson playing Beth Wexler. Beth despises him once she finds out he’s a fraud, but that doesn’t stop him from pursuing her the rest of the movie**. Tom took this on-screen persona of a womanizing douche a little too far, having an affair with Wilson during the filming of this movie, while he was still married***. We’ll get to that.

*It’s grating, but it is Hanks. He does a solid job.

**The rich boy wants what he can’t have. Classic!

***Ehn. He got a divorce pretty quickly. I dunno…I feel like I have to defend him. This is a weak comment. I’m sorry you scrolled down to read it.

volunteers_01So they get to this island and find out they’re being tasked with building a bridge across a river. While Candy’s “All American” doofus gets himself captured by communists*, Bourne becomes an instant hero to the locals, learns their language and becomes something of a god to them. Beth hates how easy it comes to him and is weirded out by this guy holding a clipboard who talks to his knife.

*And brainwashed by them because…of course.


To sum up a lot of weird plot points, Candy is brainwashed into protecting the bridge for the spread of communism, some drug lords threaten Bourne and Beth and want the bridge to spread their drug trade and one local helps Bourne realize they need to blow up the bridge. It’s tedious and dumb and a big ole mess. But … two legitimately funny/interesting things happened: 

1. We’re reading the subtitles as one character talks to Hanks and his local right-hand man, At, in another language, and suddenly Hanks and At stop everything and start reading the subtitles. We laughed pretty hard at that. It was very self-aware.

2. Bourne woos Beth by building a bar and having a guy named Sam play “As Time Goes By” in a “Casablanca” reference that actually landed. It was sweet. It still felt like a stretch that she fell for him just from that scene, but what can you do. There were tons of other references to films like “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “Lawrence of Arabia” that fell flat. For a film that sucked so much, it took balls to try to compare itself to the classics like that. Unfortunately for the film, we, unlike Tom Tuttle (gag me) were not brainwashed by this trickery.

volunteersetSpoiler alert: They blow up the bridge, Bourne and Beth fall in love and decide to live on the island forever and John Candy is at his most obnoxious ever. We were really glad this movie was over. I can’t even tell you.

  • Laugh out Loud: Zack: 40 Caitlin: 25 (These are estimates for now, since the score card is at home) It wasn’t very funny. We often laughed at how ridiculous it was, but there were only a couple real laughs *with* the movie. Any scene with Candy was truly horrible.
  • Cry: Both: 0 Not even close. Oh I don’t know, I think we were close to crying…about how bad it was.
  • Cover Eyes: Zack: 0 Caitlin: 1 I thought Caitlin would cover her eyes during a fight scene, but it was tame. I was not concerned. I was just hoping they’d kill off Candy’s character. Actually – wait! Zack, we forgot to mark it:  I DID cover my eyes when a murderous hooker was going to sink her sharp nails into Hanks’ neck. So there you go. Even when he’s terrible, I don’t want harm to come to Hanks.

tomritaRomantic Interest: Zack: 6.5 Caitlin: 6.5 Honestly, not nearly as compelling as you’d think, considering what was going on off-screen. It’s one of those movies where the woman hates the guy and hates the guy and hates the guy and then loves him. I don’t think we ever warmed up to Bourne, so it was kind of hard to see why she did after he got her a Coca Cola and told her he *didn’t* want to sleep with her right away. They clearly have some chemistry, but I have to imagine that since he left his first wife for Rita because of their affair during the filming of “Volunteers,” we missed the real heat. I’ll agree with Zack’s assessment here. I wanted to root for them, but I just didn’t. Even Hanks’ character is annoyed when he tells Beth he loves her near the end of the film.

Hanks Performance: Zack: 5 Caitlin: 6.5 Tom Hanks did not make this movie any better. That’s saying something. He was so believable as a rich kid jerk-off that it just wasn’t pleasant to watch him. I didn’t root for him and wouldn’t have cared if he died or didn’t get with Beth or anything. Mildly funny at times, but couldn’t help the film. Just because he didn’t help the film, doesn’t mean his performance was bad. I thought Hanks really pulled off his character, and for the most likable man in America to be so unlikable in a film — I think that’s quite the performance.

Movie: Zack: 2.5 Caitlin: 3 Worse than Bachelor Party. Two decent scenes in the entire film. I promise to never watch this one again. Tied with Bachelor Party for me, in last place. If you ever have the opportunity, I do not recommend volunteering yourself to watch this. Ever. That “volunteer” pun was begging to be made. I barely resisted it myself.

Link to all of our Tom Hanks Project Posts


One Response to “Tom Hanks Project – “Volunteers” Review”


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - December 4, 2013

    […] Volunteers – 1985 Review […]

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