Monday, January 18, 2010
1990's Joe Versus the Volcano is an interesting little film, light and silly on one level, yet infused with complex themes and more than a little darkness, too. Though much of the movie is set in a gritty, urban landscape, the story has a fable-like, "once upon a time..." quality throughout. But again, the darkness and complexity often gives that fable-like quality more of a Brothers Grimm flavor.
I finally watched this movie after having it sit on my shelves for several years, thinking it would probably be "just okay", so there was no rush in getting to it. But I was wrong. This combination love story and meditation on life turned out to be a thoughtful little bugger, with some memorable imagery and occurrences. I will say that the ending sequences could have benefitted from a bigger special effects budget, though nothing ever approached outright shoddy work.
Meg Ryan was very good in her three diverse roles, making me wonder why she only played cute and perky roles during most of her subsequent career, with a late career detour primarily comprised of unsavory, darkly sexual characters. This movie showed she could create interesting characters existing between those two poles. Tom Hanks was also good, displaying some early acting chops as he effectively communicated the vast range of reactions and emotions required of his character.
My standard DVD (a 2001 remastering, I believe) looked and sounded perfectly fine, and a few modest special features were included. Perhaps a better DVD of this film has been released since I bought this particular edition, but if not, this one is still quite serviceable.
By the way, the director of "Joe Versus the Volcano", John Patrick Shanley, also directed 1987's "Moonstruck" and 2008's "Doubt", all the while maintaining- even now- a prolific life in the theatre as a playwright/director. Not a bad little career.