Review by Dragan Antulov|
2 stars out of 4
In the Darwinian dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood every day is a
struggle not only to reach the top, but also to keep this lofty
position once acquired. However, there are few individuals that
have reached such a godlike status and reputation of infallibility
which allows them to make colossal errors mere mortals couldn't
have afforded. When disasters occur, those people can always
claim that they had something other in mind than commercial hit
or ambitious work of art. One of such individuals is George Lucas,
whose ambitious attempt to pay homage to the cultural influences
of his youth resulted in RADIOLAND MURDERS, 1994 comedy
directed by Mel Smith.
The plot of the film is set in Chicago 1939, when WBN, 4th major
radio-network in USA, makes its nation-wide debut. The big
opening results in absolute chaos, yet the station manager Penny
Henderson (played by Mary Stuart Henderson) would soon
discover that the tyrannical boss, heartless sponsors, capricious
actors, underpaid writers at the edge of armed revolt and her
soon-to-be-ex-husband Roger Henderson (played by Brian
Benben) aren't the worst of her problems. During the night a
mysterious voice gets on the air and makes threats, and soon
various people there are getting killed. Roger becomes major
suspect and he is forced to find the real killer and save his own
marriage in the process.
At first sight, RADIOLAND MURDERS might be seen as nothing
more than a vanity project - Lucas' attempt to flash his financial
and technical might, especially by employing expensive (and at
the time experimental) CGI effects in a period piece that could
have worked nicely without them. However, George Lucas, who
was producer and author of screen story, deliberately set the plot
in 1939 and based it around radio-station in order to recreate and
pay homage to the radio-stations that used to be the main source
of entertainment for Americans before the advent of television.
Woody Allen did the same thing few years earlier in his nostalgic
comedy RADIO DAYS, but for Lucas radio broadcasts of 1930s
and 1940s had additional value "pulpish" adventure and science
fiction plays that turned into precious source of inspiration for
STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES.
Unfortunately, Lucas chose the wrong genre for that, trying to pay
homage both to radio culture and slapstick comedies in 1930s.
The result is often very messy, since his screenwriting team lacks
the talent to mimic slapstick classics of the time. Instead, they
flood the audience with ridiculous number of gags, with only a
fraction of them being funny. However, good acting and occasional
laugh are reasons enough to judge RADIOLAND MURDERS as an
entertainment, and not only a vanity project.
Copyright © 2002 Dragan Antulov