Director: Willard Huyck
Stars: Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, Jeffrey Jones, Chip Zien, David Paymer
A critic's take: “Howard the Duck, the movie, is as bad as you've heard. Actually, it's worse.” - Keith Phipps (Slate)
Why it's bad (meaning good): And you thought Jar Jar Binks was a truly boneheaded decision on George Lucas’ part. The bane of the first three Star Wars episodes’ collective existence was predicated on a horrific idea, sure, but there’s an argument to be made that Lucas’s worst notion ever came in the form of 1986’s Howard The Duck. In Marvel Comics’ original book of the same name, the bearded, flannel-shirt-loving science fiction icon had a lighthearted, kid-ready, if not also inherently goofy, protagonist, an orange-billed alien from a planet of ducks who talks, wears flashy jackets, enjoys rock 'n' roll music, and kicks game to a sexy rocker chick (Lea Thompson, in her adorable prime) all while saving the world. Sounds like it’d make for one hell of an animated flick, right? We think so, too.
Sadly, Mr. Lucas did not. Opting to go the live-action route, the man who previously created Luke Skywalker and Dart Vader drained the likability out of Howie’s comic book form and put the focus on Industrial Light & Magic’s special effects work, which, obviously, wasn’t their best work. Deservedly, Howard The Duck grabbed itself a rep for being one of Tinsel Town’s hugest cinematic turkeys, and by no means has the film gotten any better with age. It’s just that, today, as fun-loving adults, we’re finally able to appreciate the audacity and just plain old foolishness that’s required to film scenes in which a midget-sized duck lays its little white pipe into a gorgeous female homo sapien. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t have just divulged that.