Tom Hanks Project – “Bonfire of the Vanities” Review

20 Mar

bonfire-of-the-vanities-movie-poster-1991-1020233660The only real argument about this movie is how terrible is it? I’d argue that it’s pretty terrible, but not the worst Hanks movie. Caitlin found it utterly unredeemable*. With Hanks, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith and Morgan Freeman starring in an adaptation of a popular Tom Wolfe novel directed by Brian DePalma, what could go wrong? A LOT! It’s such a well-known disaster of a production that a book was written about how badly it went. Honestly, one of the main problems is the casting of our boy Tom. He’s at his most unlikable when playing a rich, detached a-hole. It just doesn’t suit him**. Not that there aren’t far more serious problems in this train wreck. We had to watch it in two viewings, only managing to watch 15 minutes Monday night and powering through Tuesday. By the end, Caitlin was begging for it to end and I found myself being hooked in, but still hating it.

*I still can’t decide if it’s as bad as Volunteers, or just a smidgen less awful…it’s a really, really close call.

**We’re supposed to kind of root for him, I think? At least Bruce Willis’ “journalist” character positions him as his “hero,” but there’s literally nothing heroic about this character.


To summarize this piece of crap film as briefly as I can:  It’s meant to be (I think) a comment on the demoralization of a society deteriorating from its own greed, racism and violence. There’s a rich dude (Hanks’ character, Sherman McCoy) who is having an affair with a blonde bimbo (played, horrendously poorly, by Melanie Griffith). His wife* is kind of a bitch also, so somehow I think the movie wants us to think the affair is justified**? But the affair leads Hanks to take a “wrong turn.” Honestly, when this happened, I jokingly said, “I bet they’re in the black neighborhood now!” But that’s exactly what the movie does — takes them to a nearly exclusively African American neighborhood. I their attempt to get back to Manhattan, where they so clearly belong, they end up under an overpass where there’s a tire semi-blocking their path out (it’s really not but we have to believe that it is, or else McCoy’s getting out of the car to move it would make no sense). He’s approached by two black men who I guess we’re supposed to believe might do McCoy harm? All they ever actually do is ask if he needs help moving the tire.

*Samantha from “Sex and the City”

**The book on the movie says Griffith is supposed to be so irresistible that she’s the “devil’s candy” and Sherman can’t stay away. Nope.


Long story short, Griffith’s character runs over one of the guys with McCoy’s car, leading to a bunch of boring fluff shit in the middle and at the end Morgan Freeman makes a long speech about how nobody cared about the African American kid except because of what it meant for their own gain (political, monetary, etc) and he lets Hanks go free because Hanks has a raunchy recording of Griffith’s character admitting to having driven the car. The end of this bullshit movie. Oh and Bruce Willis is a lush. Yeah, the movie is sloppily narrated by Bruce Willis who wrote a book about the story of the movie. I could get into it, but let’s not waste any more time and just get to the scores.

Laugh out Loud: Zack 5 Caitlin: 3 I’m honestly shocked I laughed at all. I’m pretty sure my “laughs” were sort of scoffs at the ridiculousness of the film. It was more of a guffaw than anything. This is a humorless film.

Comedy: Zack: 1 Caitlin: 0 The movie isn’t trying to be a comedy, and it isn’t a comedy, and the only reason I laughed was because I had to keep myself from crying, somehow. It’s funny how bad it is. That’s a thing.

Eye Cover and Cry: 0 No reason to whatsoever. There wasn’t a damn heartwarming second in this whole movie.


Romantic Interest: Zack: 3 Caitlin: 0 I cannot express how little I cared about any of the “romances” that are pitched to us in this film. None of them are heartwarming — they’re all vile, everyone’s using everyone else. It’s just god-awful. I read a bit of the book that chronicles this movie’s disastrous creation and they stress that it should have been Uma Thurman in the lead role. That might have helped. Griffith is not the “devil’s candy” they were looking for. She’s an atrocious human being and while she is rather attractive, she’s such a vile human being, we can’t see why Sherman would give up his whole life to be with her. Also, Hanks has no chemistry with his wife. Bad vibes all around.

Hanks: Zack: 5 Caitlin: 3 I guess Hanks did the best he could? It seemed like nobody in this movie could act — from the opening scene where Rita Wilson has to do a voiceover as her bit-character parades around a drunken Bruce Willis, I felt that this was going to be some of the worst acting we’d scene. It was like watching middle school kids try to put on their first-ever play. “This is AAAHCK-teeeeeng!” Blech. It’s certainly non-stop over-acting. Hanks does manage to bring a smidgen of humanity to it by the end with his vulnerability, but we never bought into his whole power hungry tail chasing character in the first place. It’s awful casting all around. 

Movie: Zack: 4 Caitlin: 2.5 It’s decided. This is the worst Hanks movie I’ve been subjected to. The worst acting, confusing, conflicting non-morals shoved down your throat only to have you be more confused, nobody to root for and nothing to be invested in, and it’s TWO HOURS LONG. I have to think this is rock-bottom. I have it as 5th worst, slightly above The Burbs, Bachelor Party, Dragnet and Volunteers. I was at least interested in what would happen at the end. I wanted justice. Also, I’d like those two hours of my life back. Do not watch this one. I’m just glad we bought the cheaper DVD and didn’t splurge for the Blu-Ray of this turd.


One Response to “Tom Hanks Project – “Bonfire of the Vanities” Review”


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - March 23, 2014

    […] The Bonfire of the Vanities – 1990 Review  […]

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