31 Days of Action: Day 5 - The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

Here we have another one from the 2 dollar DVD pile. I’m too young to remember a whole lot about Andrew Dice Clay’s time at the top. I do remember him existing and the controversy that surrounded him (like when female cast members refused to work with him on Saturday Night Live) but that was about it. I remember seeing a couple of clips from this stand-up act and none of it struck me as particularly funny, but this guy was a big deal back then, selling out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row, the first time a comedian had ever done that (and I’m not sure if it’s even been done since then).

So here’s the low down on Andrew Dice Clay. He’s a comedian whose on stage persona is a sexist, racist asshole from Brooklyn who acts like Elvis and sounds like John Travolta in Grease. The majority of his act is nothing but talking about having sex with woman and generally disparaging comments about everyone. It all seems pretty tame by today’s standards.  In addition to watching this movie, I went back and watched some of his stand-up from when he was at the height of his popularity and I don’t know man, I don’t really get it at all. While I don’t find any of it offensive, I can’t say his whole shtick is all that funny either. The audience definitely seemed pretty into it, yelling out his catch phrases and cheering immensely after each punch line, but I just sat here confused. The jokes, at least during the portion of the show I watched, seemed to amount to nothing more than “Hey so I met this girl and I fucked her. Ayyyy oooo ayyyy”. Also if the audience knows the punchlines well enough to say them in unison, doesn’t that just mean he’s rehashing the same material constantly? I don’t know, I don’t get it.

So when Dice Clay was at the peak of his popularity, they did what they always did for people having their 15 minutes of fame in the 90’s and put him in a starring role in a movie. Here though, the pedigree of people behind the camera is surprisingly strong. You got Renny Harlin in the director’s chair, coming off of Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master. The script is by the guy who wrote Heathers, and you got Joel Silver as a producer. It should all add up to be a fun product but unfortunately you have to spend the running time with this asshole making dumb quips and saying “oooooooo” after all of them.

So Dice Clay is the titular Ford Fairlane, a “rock n’ roll detective” who specializes in the music business. He’s frustrated because all of his clients pay him in bizarre gifts like food processors and koala bears (or awful looking koala bear puppets at least) and so when the chance comes to make some big money he you know what it doesn’t really matter. It’s a very typical action movie plot and it largely exists so Clay can rehash his stage material and tell women to do his dishes.

I honestly was going to bail on this one about ten minutes in. Fairlane’s whole persona was just irritating; from the vocal inflections to the general “rock n’roll” mannerisms and especially the fact he ends each punch line with “oooooo!” Then all of a sudden the aforementioned koala bear puppet turned up and I started to think this movie may be worth continuing. It’s not as though they treat the koala bear puppet as a joke, he essentially becomes Fairlane’s pet and there’s a moment where I think we are supposed to be genuinely upset about the well-being of this koala bear puppet. So at the very least the movie gets some credit for that one.

Commenting on Clay’s performance is largely pointless as he is just playing himself, or at least the exact same character he was known for portraying on stage. There are a few moments where he is asked to be slightly dramatic or emote and he does fine, nothing spectacular but certainly not cringe-inducing. For the most part though, you’re watching Dice Clay be Dice Clay with a different name. They do surround him with some pretty good supporting actors though most don’t have a whole lot to do. Gilbert Gottfried shows up for a few minutes to grate on your ears, Ed O’ Neill has a couple of scenes as a cop where he embarrasses himself by singing disco songs, Lauren Holly is Fairlane’s put upon secretary/love interest and the one woman who doesn’t exist solely to swoon over Fairlane (though she does still do a lot of that), Wayne Newton plays a surprisingly effective villain, and Robert Englund shows up as one of the henchmen, and it was kind of fun to see him play a baddie in the action world instead of the horror world. That’s a pretty good group of people, it’s just too bad they are all here in support of a protagonist who says things like “Clint Eastwood? I fucked ‘em. Ay ooo!”

I will say there is a decent amount of action here with a car chase, some shootouts and a sequence where Fairlane and a girl he is protecting have to scale down the side of the Capital Records building. All of it is shot really well, they certainly don’t half ass things on the production side. The movie looks good, it’s a professional piece. It really is a big budget, slick production that’s all in service of a guy who says things like “I’m calling you an anus…anus.”

And yet despite all the shit I’ve talked, I kinda sorta didn’t hate this movie. Yes Clay’s whole persona didn’t work for me but I will admit I did get a few laughs. I liked the way he deals with Englund’s character and a scene where the bad guys torture his guitar as they know he won’t give a shit if they torture the girl is pretty good too. And of course that fucking koala puppet. Seriously in one scene the koala is eating food out of a bowl and it’s just a puppet smashing his face into it and making eating noises. It’s incredible!

I think though what appealed to me about this movie is that it’s another great example of a film that seems as though it could only exist in the 90’s. Yeah Firestorm was the same way but at least this movie isn’t boring and while Firestorm had a bland lead in Howie Long, Clay at least is a unique presence as an action movie hero. So yeah while I often rolled my eyes at the shit he was saying, I couldn’t help but slightly get into the whole thing as a bizarre piece of bygone entertainment.

That all being said, I still don’t think I can really recommend this movie. If you somehow happen to be a die-hard Andrew Dice Clay fan I’m sure you’ve already seen this many times as your viewing options are quite limited. If you aren’t a fan then certainly there’s no need to watch this. So I guess it’s more for people who want to see a bizarre slice of the 90’s where damn near anybody could get their own movie. Or if you reallllly like dick jokes. Then you best get on board!