We’d been hearing a lot about this one. You tell people you’re doing a Tom Hanks Project and they’ll tell you their favorites and ask if you’ve seen a hidden gem. “Joe Vs. The Volcano” kept coming up. It was the one Tom & Meg movie we hadn’t seen. A cult classic so popular it made the Alamo 100 list. We were confident we’d love this quirky, under-appreciated-in-its-time comedy. We loved the poster so much, it was in the lead to take over the space above the TV in the rock garden. All we had to do was watch it and fall in love with it. Well, we watched it and enjoyed it, but we didn’t fall in love, and it’s certainly not going to get the prime poster spot*.
*Still not sure what’s going to end up there — we’ve discussed “Big,” but as much as I LOVE Hanks, just a poster of his face isn’t that appealing to me.So the premise of this movie is that this guy Joe Banks is in a futuristic-ish environment, working a horrific desk job as the librarian/marketer for something-or-other. He’s also a hypochondriac, apparently, but really he doesn’t seem all that hypochondriac-ish — everyone in this creepy world seems pretty sick, given the poor lighting, terrible coffee and just all-around bad vibes. I didn’t think it was futuristic, but yeah, I thought he just had horrific working conditions with Cher’s dad from Clueless as his awful boss, so his work depression seemed justified.
Because Banks is such a hypochondriac, he keeps leaving work to go to the doctor and get checked out. We find out he’s had a billion-and-one tests, and so far, nothing seems to be coming back wrong. However with his latest visit to the doctor, Hanks is informed that he has a “brain cloud” and is doomed. He then heads home, is approached by some crazy rich dude and asked to jump into a volcano since he’s going to die anyway. He is promised he’ll be paid handsomely for the last little bit of his life if he takes up the rich dude on his offer, so Banks goes for it. I bought in to the bizarre premise since it got him out of the nightmare-ish office and made him a temporarily rich man heading to a tropical island. Still, as supporting characters are quick to point out: it’s odd that Joe bought into the “you have a brain cloud, you need to jump into a Volcano” plan.
Meg Ryan plays three characters in this movie — the first two are BIZARRE and I didn’t even recognize her at first, but the last one looks like her and doesn’t speak in a bizarro accent, thankfully. Above, she’s Banks’ co-worker in the office (we learned in the DVD bonus footage* that she based her acting off of her own dog, FiFi); then she’s the rich dude’s daughter with the most horrific accent I’ve ever heard in my life, and finally, she’s that girl’s half-sister, who is trying to win her dad’s boat by sailing Banks out to this volcano. During a storm she’s knocked off the boat and Banks goes in after her, making a life raft out of some impressive suitcases. He basically acts out a prequel to “Cast Away,” and then they arrive at the island and he and Meg’s character get married and jump into the volcano together. I won’t say more in case you want to watch this. It’s weird to say the least. I will also reveal here that I had NO IDEA that “Take me! To! THE VOLCANO!” was a sound bite from this movie, because all I ever knew it to be was some horrific ad for a very, VERY trashy bar in San Antonio.
*One of the shortest “making of” special features I’ve ever seen, coming in at just over four minutes.
Laugh Out Loud: Zack: 41 Caitlin: 37 Solid amount of laughs here. We laughed just about the same amount of times and it was around middle of the pack, tied with “Turner & Hooch” and just below “Punchline.” To clarify, Zack is saying we laughed the same amount at this movie as we did at “Turner & Hooch.” They are in no way equal movies.
Comedy Zack: 7.5 Caitlin: 6.5 There are a number of funny bits. Joe having an unlimited shopping trip and his relationship with his chauffeur was great. Anything with his luggage was good as well. It was funny, but not nearly as funny as I hoped. The chauffeur relationship wasn’t so much comedy to me as it was seriously touching and amazing. I’d watch a whole movie of those two hanging out together.
Eye Cover & Cry: Both: 0
Romantic Interest: Zack: 7 Caitlin: 5 We get three variations of Meg Ryan for Joe to fall for and he goes for two out of three*. I liked the ditzy receptionist version and was sad Joe’s “terminal illness” scared her off. The middle Meg was a disaster and her accent was horrendous. Joe didn’t seem much into her. The final Meg was the one who helped him believe in himself and we were happy enough for them to “live happily ever after.” Still, even though Joe was only ready for each version of Meg as his journey went along, we didn’t spend enough time with the final version for me to be fully invested. I definitely agree with this last sentiment. We spent so much time just realizing the different incarnations were Meg Ryan that I just never had enough time with any of them to care all that much. Plus these were all just weird roles for Meg. I don’t ever want to paint an actress into a corner, but I love her so much in her spunky, lovable role as the Shop Around the Corner owner.
*I’d argue 3 for 3.
Hanks: Zack: 8 Caitlin: 7.5 Hanks was a convincing Joe. I enjoyed his character journey from a hypochondirac in a dead end job to a hero willing to risk it all. He played off all versions of Meg well, he handled a bizarre and good, but not great script well. Still, he made a pretty good movie good, but never great. We’ve seen Hanks be better in these types of roles. He didn’t take it to another level. Can we just watch “Cloud Atlas” now please? Oh, we’re hitting a much better peak than Cloud Atlas.
Movie: Zack: 7.75 Caitlin: 7.2 We wanted to love this movie. We didn’t. I’d recommend it, but we have no plan to see it on the big screen for the Alamo 100. I found the second half far more watchable, especially once middle Meg leaves. I’ll give it another spin in a couple months to see if I dig it more on the second go round, but I’m comfortable saying he was in five better movies in the ’80s than “Joe Vs. The Volcano.” If Zack watches this in a couple of months, he’ll be doing it alone. I may watch it again in my lifetime, but I am certainly not clamoring to. It was a fine film, and I do love the scene where Joe is dying on the raft and the moon is humongous and he thanks god for his life. That actually kind of moved me. I’d say, if you haven’t seen this film, you should watch it, and then you can say you did and when we sing a horrible song about the man made outta mud, you’ll know where we heard it.