Written by / 2/07/2016 / No comments / , , , , , ,

CHEVY CHASE STARRING IN MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN

Still Decent Special Effects for the Chase/Carpenter collaboration preCGI
This is a Cornelius Production. Run by Chevy Chase. He obviously knew what director was good enough to put his movie on the big screen...

Year: 1992
In fact, anyone familiar with cinema from the 70's and 80's had most likely heard of John Carpenter. But teaming up with Chase seems, and is, a strange concept. "Escape from New York... It's Saturday Niiiiight!" But the initial plans made more sense as Chase was intended to work under GHOSTBUSTERS director Ivan Reitman, who was no stranger to working with former the groundbreaking SNL cast members. However, he dropped out after hearing it would be a comedy and mostly drama...

So the HALLOWEEN icon/Master of Horror was ready to play slave to the kind of uptight studio suits he'd usually be free from and, instead of adding the usual "John Carpenter's" before the title, he was willing to be a hired-hand for Chevy Chase's science-fiction labor of love albeit one that took its source with dignity without being a satire, and best yet, providing both actor and director a genuine challenge: Chase being serious, and Carpenter providing him a serious enough platform for that make sense. As one would imagine from its maligned reputation, there are some flaws... like a melodramatic narration that makes you forget how well he flowed words in FLETCH since he has to be deadpan without the usual subtle punchline. His tone falters trying to reach the necessary fevered pitch and the corny dialogue didn't help ("I felt... panicky"). And the fact, as a performer, Chase, who looked both in-shape and too thin (a bit on the sickly side), was in a sort of purgatory phase given his last few projects (Carpenter, too, was running dry of his former greatness)... But as purgatory goes, MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN isn't too shabby: Before computer-animation went all-out, the early nineties often relied on what looked somewhat weak and contrived, even then, paling to the hands-on 80's prosthetics from the likes of Rick Baker, Rob Bottin and hell, even Jim Henson. But they did a decent job here despite the limitations...

Villainous Sam Neill
Headlined by an important building that, after one of the most forced and banal set-ups ever: A bumbling engineer spills coffee on his consul after telling Chase's hungover self-loathing businessman where the bathroom/shower is, causing an important top secret science-lab... that just happens to have its huge doors wide open... to catch on file: The building partially vanishes, resembling the famous Sal Dali melting clock painting that not only makes Chevy Chases' womanizing (yet deep down lonesome) cool guy stockbroker, Nick Holloway, become invisible while nursing his bruised brain. But his moving hat catches the News Report eye of a beyond-capable Australian actor known for villainous roles — till a year later when he'd play the modern day Indiana Jones, chased by Steven Spielberg's dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK.

Chase and McKean
Thus Sam Neill brings to the screen what Chase lacks in dramatic chops. At the same time, the once-iconic comedy star, on the downturn and soon to have his own disastrous short-lived Late Night Talk Show that sealed his coffin, almost for good, has a few nice moments here, playing well off Neill and sparking genuine passions with ingenue Daryl Hannah...

Although that might not be difficult for any actor since she's usually hooked up with relatively older men: igniting a bonafide box office (and downright terrific) SPLASH with Tom Hanks, moving along with Steve Martin in ROXANNE and bonding with Dudley Moore in the underrated CRAZY PEOPLE, who are just plain mesmerized by her beauty, and youth –  an epitomizing dream-blonde making her men feel like they're getting a brand new start: which Chase's character obviously needs with his serious dilemma.

We see him while they don't
One mysterious (and downright bizarre) aspect concerning a particular character is how Chase's Nick thoroughly loathes his friend, Michael McKean as George Talbott, right from the start: George who does nothing wrong, really, initially going out of his way to introduce Nick to Hannah's gorgeous documentarian (before the accident). Meanwhile, some of the best scenes occur at George's summer home where Nick plays spooky tricks on a yuppie jerk making moves on Hannah. Also, the government helicopter action scenes are directed pretty nicely...

The Mainstream Movie Poster
John Carpenter, best known for his slow, spooky aura and, in the past relying more on gloomy suspense than adventurous dramedy, seems kind of stuck in this mainstream venture that lacks his usual foreboding, metronomic score as well as the signature camera-gliding style: but it's nice knowing he's somewhere around, and, after all, he wasn't exactly making classics during this period: INVISIBLE was, in an artistic sense, no set-back despite bad reviews and a moderate box office. Basically, it still holds up as a nicely shot little film...

Jim Norton in STRAW DOGS
While the script, though scrambling somewhat dizzily with a busy hybrid of comedy (where Chase had already lost his edge) to drama to action, surely isn't boring, making MEMOIRS one of those sick day movies that feels pretty alright. And so, saving the most important aspect for last, the Special Effects wherein Nick moves around objects — from a pencil to gum blown into a bubble — looks pretty good, and doesn't have to remain that way: the audience is able to randomly see our man, despite his invisibility which built-up enough for us to get the point without having to rely on too many cheap tricks as a reminder of his presence.

Norton in MAN
RATING: ***1/2
TRIVIA: Jim Norton, who plays the American scientist giving a speech so boring he makes our hero have to rest in the shower room before the accident, and who is the only person that can save Nick if Sam Neill doesn't get to him first, is really an English actor who has one of the greatest evil, creepy, and downright hilarious giggles in Sam Peckinpah's STRAW DOGS... he's the "Rat Man," so check that one out, it's one of Cult Film Freak's all-time favorites. • In one scene, after Chase escapes from his apartment building, the guy shot in the neck by the knock-out dart-gun while innocently sitting in his backyard patio isn't Chase's NOTHING BUT TROUBLE co-star, the late Taylor Negron (famous as the Pizza Guy in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH), who, after being asked "Were you also with Chevy Chase in MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN?" on MySpace, many moons ago, simply stated: "Nope."

Not Taylor Negron? The late comic told us, no.
But check out the picture to the right and you'll see the incredible resemblance to Taylor Negron, the standup/actor who also appeared in THE LAST BOYSCOUT and PUNCHLINE...

Retro Homage
In a dream sequence, Chevy Chase is seen playing jazz piano: the best part of his horrible Talk Show in which, right before cutting back and forth to commercials, we see his fingers groove the ivory built into his desk, very soulful and with immense speed. Obviously his CADDYSHACK "I was born to love you, I was born to lick your face" was purposefully dumbed down (like SPINAL TAP, you have to be great to pretend to suck). And that's not all: In college, Chase played drums for the members of STEELY DAN. • As far as John Carpenter goes, his hey-day was the 1980's... his last truly great film being THEY LIVE. The 90's brought forth passion projects that, unlike his past science-fiction-Spaghetti-Western suspense thrillers, were of the mind-game horror/espionage genre or intentional B-movies (the awesomely campy VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED can be played on a loop) and even during the 80's, he had a hired-on project, STARMAN, which was a big hit, providing Jeff Bridges an Oscar nom despite the fact his alien character acted like a lizard imitating a chicken... Even Chase does better here IMO. And also, Carpenter was the original choice to direct FATAL ATTRACTION, which he felt was just a glossy remake of PLAY MISTY FOR ME, and had he complied, Anne Archer would've bought the farm with the bunny, for certain.
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