The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

The-adventure-of-fordThe Adventues of Ford Fairlane  (1990)    20th Century Fox/Action-Comedy    RT: 101 minutes    Rated R (non-stop profanity and crude sexual remarks, strong violence, alcohol use)    Director: Renny Harlin    Screenplay: Daniel Waters, James Cappe and David Arnott    Music: Boris Blank    Cinematography: Oliver Wood    Release date: July 11, 1990 (US)    Starring: Andrew Dice Clay, Wayne Newton, Priscilla Presley, Lauren Holly, Gilbert Gottfried, Maddie Corman, Morris Day, David Patrick Kelly, Brandon Call, Robert Englund, Ed O'Neill, Vince Neil, Sheila E., Tone Loc, Kari Wuhrer.    Box Office: $21.4 million (US)     

Rating: fullstar1fullstar1fullstar1star-empty1

 Remember Andrew Dice Clay, the extremely foul mouthed stand-up comedian who was briefly famous in the late 80s/early 90s? Actually, "famous" isn't the right word, it would be more accurate to say "infamous" or "notorious". Among his more notable achievements, Clay was "banned for life" from MTV after reciting some of his "adult nursery rhymes" during the Video Music Awards ceremony (September 6, 1989). When he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1990, it's one of only two instances where the show wasn't actually "live" (the other occurred when Richard Pryor hosted in '75), it was shown with a three-second electronic delay so the show's censors could bleep out any objectionable words. I am not a big fan of Clay's, I absolutely HATED Dice Rules, his 1991 stand-up comedy film (positively excruciating!). A majority of his act is very offensive and 100% politically incorrect, but I kind of like his stage persona. With his signature leather jacket and 50s style D.A. haircut, he was like a foul-mouthed Fonzie. Okay, I liked the "adult nursery rhymes", they were actually funny. And I also like The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, the 1990 action/comedy that features Clay as the titular character, a self-described "rock and roll detective" as all of his cases involve the music industry in Los Angeles. This spoof of the film noir genre has Fairlane looking into the mysterious death of heavy metal singer Bobby Black (Neil of Motley Crue) who collapsed while performing on stage. Shortly after Black's death, Johnny Crunch (Gottfried, Problem Child), a local shock jock and old friend of Fairlane's, hires the detective to find Zuzu Petals (Corman, Seven Monutes in Heaven), an air-headed teenage groupie who might be connected to Black's death. Soon after this, Crunch gets electrocuted on the air and Fairlane feels compelled to look into the matter, despite the objections of Lt. Amos (O'Neill, Married With Children), a dopey LAPD detective and Fairlane's arch-enemy.

 adventures of_ford_fairlaneFairlane's investigation leads him to Julian Grendel (singer Newton), a ruthless record executive who has his own reasons for not wanting him to solve the case. He also meets Colleen Sutton (Presley, The Naked Gun), a wealthy woman who also pays Fairlane to search for Zuzu Petals. He's aided in his investigation by his girl Friday, Jazz (Holly, Dumb and Dumber). Other people involved in the case include a psychotic hitman named Smiley (Englund, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies); Don Cleveland (Day, Purple Rain), a hip musician and a kid (Call, Blind Fury) who wants Fairlane to track down his missing father. As his investigation proceeds, Fairlane discovers some malfeasance that puts his life (and everybody around him) at serious risk. Among other things, the bad guys kill his pet koala bear, assault the kid and steal his most prized possession, a rare 1969 Fender Stratocaster guitar that once belonged to Jimi Hendrix. When I saw The Adventures of Ford Fairlane for the first time, I recognized it as an instant cult movie. It won't appeal to everybody and a lot of people just won't get it, but I had a blast watching it. I liked all the references to the music industry and the appearances of several musicians including R&B singer Sheila E. (Krush Groove) and rapper Tone Loc (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective). One of my favorite character actors, David Patrick Kelly (The Warriors, 48 Hrs), shows up as the crazy obsessed fan of an all-girl rock group. Essentially, this movie acts as a guide to various aspects of pop culture throughout the years, you have to appreciate a movie where a Fred Flintstone ring becomes an important clue in an investigation. Furthermore, you really have to appreciate a movie that references Art Mooney, a popular American bandleader from the 40s and 50s. What young person would even know who Art Mooney is? The filmmakers include several obscure references, that's part of the fun of the movie.

 One could argue that Andrew Dice Clay is a terrible actor, but I don't agree with that assessment, at least not in this case. He plays himself in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, the character was created based on his stage persona. He even uses some of his trademark lines throughout the movie like "Unbelievable!" and a joke involving the names Neal and Bob. Clay also gets off a very funny and very crude line concerning the definition of "vagina". The whole cast looks like they're having a great time, but I really enjoyed seeing Maddie Corman as the brain dead groupie who finds it amusing to play "Psyche!" in the midst of a potentially deadly situation. In one scene, when a characters demands that somebody explain things to him slowly, she does so literally, dragging out each word as though it were a sentence. I don't understand why Corman never attained the same level of stardom as actresses like Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts, she's a very funny lady and she's extremely talented. It boggles the mind how Hollywood studio execs can overlook such obvious talent, the same thing happened with Stacey Nelkin and Jill Schoelen. Ed O'Neill delivers a hysterical supporting performance as the clueless detective who used to be the lead singer of Disco Express back in the 70s, an obscure group whose only hit was "Booty Time", somebody describes him as "the white Van McCoy". Obviously, this is a reference to all those one-hit wonder groups throughout the history of music, specifically the 70s and 80s. Director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) does a good job goofing on the film noir genre, Ford Fairlane serves as a warped update of the hard-boiled detective characters prominently featured in such films. The movie has several funny moments, including a wild car chase in a cemetery and Fairlane's visit to a sorority house where all the girls engage in sexually suggestive activities (they sure know how to eat a corn dog!). It's also got a pretty cool soundtrack featuring tunes by Billy Idol, Motley Crue, Queensryche and Dion. I enjoyed The Adventures of Ford Fairlane very much, it's a funny movie if you watch it in the right frame of mind. It's the perfect vehicle for Clay, although it's very likely that it's the only time you will enjoy his act. It's the ideal cult flick!


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