Joe Versus the Volcano
Joe Versus the Volcano
PG | 09 March 1990 (USA)
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Hypochondriac Joe Banks finds out he has six months to live, quits his dead end job, musters the courage to ask his co-worker out on a date, and is then hired to jump into a volcano by a mysterious visitor.


Truly Dreadful Film


Better Late Then Never


It's funny, it's tense, it features two great performances from two actors and the director expertly creates a web of odd tension where you actually don't know what is happening for the majority of the run time.

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This is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a very long time. You have to go and see this on the big screen.

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I had a friend who laughed at anything, and thought all comedies were works of genius. This thing is no exception. The only problem is that it's slow paced, unfocused, and, like old cliché goes, "It looked great on paper."I'm sure the screenplay read as if it were an interesting project, but you really need to know what you're doing when you direct your own stuff, and one gets the impression that the writer didn't direct a whole lot of projects prior. And indeed said director has no track record of anything prior to this credit.There are talented people out there who can make things work the first time around. And there are people for whom much talent is given to them in the form of personnel in order that they do not fail. And then there are the people who've done lots of favors for everyone else, and so they cajole others to let them handle something.Where this film isn't a ludicrous bomb with B-movie overtones, far from it, it does lack a certain energy that was much needed and might have been injected by any other seasoned director. I guess in the end it's a time waster. I'm glad it's not a movie I paid to see (I caught it on HBO a year after it had been in the theatres), and where it isn't horrible, it's in a solid middle gray area of mediocre. Watch at your own risk.

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"Joe vs volcano" is a great, imaginative fantasy. The fantasy in this film really takes you away to a different kind of world, it's escapism. The first part of the movie is the closest part to ugly reality with Joe (Tom Hanks) working in a dismal factory with soul crushed workers and a miserable boss. Joe even makes a pun related to this. Deedee (Meg Ryan) asks Joe why he looks so unhappy. Joe, who has just pulled off his shoe, looks at the sole of his shoe coming off and says "I'm losing my sole (soul)". Losing his soul is just what seems to be happening to him, he's lost his spirit and his smile. Joe's also a hypochondriac who keeps going to doctors. One day, in a doctor's office, the doctor (Robert Stack) tells Joe he has a " Brain cloud", a very rare, life threatening, incurable illness in his brain. He tells Joe he has only six months to live, and that there's nothing anyone can do to change that.After that is when the movie really changes. He quits his job and tells his miserable boss where to shove it. Then, he takes Deedee on a date, totally wowing her with his new found spirit. This is where we get the "if there's no tomorrow, I can do whatever the hell I want" theme. Bill Murray did the same thing in "Groundhog day" when he suddenly started running over mailboxes and driving on the train tracks cause he realized, "no tomorrow, no consequences". The next morning, Joe gets a visit from Loyd Bridges (a very rich man) giving Joe the offer of a lifetime. Well, an offer for the rest of his lifetime. Joe finds out that he will totally and completely live it up for three weeks, followed by him having to jump into a volcano. Bridges says that the volcano island tribe people won't give him a rare mineral needed for his super conductors unless he sends someone to the island to jump into their volcano. As you can see, the fantasy part of the movie is starting now. Bridges tells Joe "live like a king! die like a man!". We see then Joe being given several of Bridges' credit cards being told " you've got no spending limit". Then we see Joe going shopping for new suits, luggage, etc., Joe staying at the Pierre in New York, him flying first class to LA, going out to a fancy restaurant in NY and in LA, then traveling a pleasure yaht slowly towards the volcano island of the South Pacific. Along the way he meets a pretty girl in LA (Angelica) and then another pretty girl (Angelica's sister Patricia) who joins Joe on the yaht. Both girls are played by Meg Ryan. Joe and Patricia spend their next days and nights on the yaht, and on a sort of a life raft (made of Joe's large suitcases tied together) after a storm tears the ship apart, sailing further out into the deep blue, away from the things of man. That's the period of time where the fantasy wonders of the world, and of life really come to wake. Patricia tells Joe, "most of the world is asleep, only a few of us are really awake and we're in a constant state of amazement". Patricia's statement comes at a time where what she says relates to the happening circumstances. All alone surrounded only by things of God, away from the cities, the rat race, the stresses, pushes and hustles. There are some almost magical, surreal types of visions seen in the sky. It is like their whole world anymore is just them and an endless stretch of surrounding ocean. I can understand how then the sky can almost take on a mystical life of its own. Look at Joe's face while looking at the moon. Its almost as if he's not just seeing the moon, but he's seeing the light, cause he's on the brink of dying from hunger and thirst, having little hope of ever reaching any land again. But it's at that moment I believe Joe's really found God. It's really mystifying. There is an echo in all of this to Tom Hanks' future movie out that same way into the middle of the Pacific away from civilization, his 2000 film "Castaway", 10 years into the future from "Joe vs volcano"SPOILERS BELOWThere are TWO great twists. First twist, after jumping into the volcano on Wapini Wo, the Volcano shoots them back out and they fly all the way back into the ocean just off the island. And they just happen to land where Joe's big suitcases are floating, and they now got their suitcase raft back. They then watch the rest of the island sink into the ocean, Joe and Patricia are the only survivors. Second twist, Joe, then, for the first time, tells Patricia the name of the doctor that told him he had that life threatening Brain cloud. Patricia right away knows the doctor is an old and close friend of her dad, and they both then realize the whole expedition, the volcano and all, was a setup that Bridges and his doctor friend organized, and that they made up the Brain cloud bit. So they realize now that Joe is not sick and dying after all.Why couldn't have Joe told Patricia earlier the name of the doctor when he first told her he was dying? Simple, then there wouldn't have have been that big entire climax on the island and the volcano, and Joe would've told the islanders to go to hell. There also wouldn't have been that whole part on the raft where Joe saw God. So I guess it's better it happened the way it did, because it made Joe a better being.

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I wasn't going to review this film because it's already been reviewed by well over 100 posters. But, I'm changing my mind because I think there's more to this film than is immediately apparent.Superficially it's just another comedy. And, that seeming superficiality is accentuated by the title -- "Joe Versus The Volcano"; it even sounds shallow.What sets this above the average comedy is that it's all about humor WITHIN RELATIONSHIPS. And not just permanent relationships, but how we relate to everyday people we may only come across by accident. We start off in a work setting this is devoid of human relationships -- Joe (Tom Hanks) works in an environment where his boss (Dan Hedaya) smothers any humanity, thus clamping down on any human interaction between Joe and DeDe (Meg Ryan). Then, Joe is diagnosed with a "brain cloud" by a doctor (Robert Stack). He is then approached by a businessman (Lloyd Bridges) who wants Joe to jump into a volcano as a human sacrifice so that the islanders will give Bridges the rights to a very rare mineral for his business. Joe meets the two daughters of Bridges (both also played by Meg Ryan), one who is weird and suicidal, the other of whom is lively and free.But what is key here is that Joe, when not under his "brain cloud" develops relationships with each of them. Each relationship is unique and begins to teach Joe than the world is not as sterile as his job led him to believe. He even develops a short, but meaningful relationship with a limousine driver (Ossie Davis).And while there is a thread of humor running throughout the story, it's not just a bunch of gags. It's mostly gags based on some aspect of sensitivity.What's interesting here is that this is Tom Hanks before we discovered what a fine dramatic actor he was...and yet, the hints are there is this film through a portrayal sensitively acted. Oddly enough, there's sort of a preview here -- Joe is adrift in the ocean at one point during the story; shades of "Cast Away" some 10 years later.There's also some funny casting here -- Abe Vigoda as the island chief and Nathan Lane as one of the islanders.As I've indicated, Tom Hanks is quite sensitive in this comedy film. Meg Ryan shows ads flair for humor, and is interesting because she plays 3 characters totally different in their personalities.Now, before you think I've praised this movie too much, I should tell you that once Joe gets to the island, things get a bit silly. Good silly, but still silly. But that's's a comedy.I maintain this film is more than meets the eye and underrated.

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"Joe Versus the Volcano" is a mixed bag of comedy, romance, fantasy and adventure. The comedy is a little on the dark side initially, but then brings in some outlandish stuff for laughs toward the end, including some hilarious history. One suspects, however, that many modern viewers (i.e., younger) may not catch that. For instance, Patricia (one of three characters that Meg Ryan plays very well) reads the history of Waponi Woo, the fictitious Pacific Island they are sailing toward. It was settled 1,800 years ago after a Roman galley with a crew of druids and Jews was caught in a huge storm off Carthage (in the Mediterranean Sea off North Africa). "They were swept a thousand miles off course and wound up on the wrong side of the horn of Africa (in the Indian Ocean). Thinking they were returning to Rome, they sailed deep into the South Pacific and finally ended up colonizing a lightly populated Polynesian Island." No wonder the Waponi's were known to lack a sense of direction. But, as outlandish as the storm is that carried them more than a couple thousand miles away, the crew makeup is even more hilarious. The Romans had just conquered the druid areas of England in the first century, and by the second century, the druids had all but disappeared. While the Bible tells us of the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, the ancient Jews were not a seafaring nation So, a Roman galley with a crew of druids and Jews would be a truly hilarious fictitious arrangement. Then, as Joe (played by Tom Hanks) and Patricia come ashore, the natives are singing a song to the tune of "Hava Nagila." ("Let Us Rejoice"), a modern Jewish festival song. Patricia concluded reading the background on the island and people, "Thus was born the Waponi culture, a mixture of Polynesian, Celtic, Hebrew and Latin influences."The story is quirky and the parts of the plot don't seem to blend together well. The writing is weak and the direction and editing aren't quite in sync. The best thing of the movie is the cast and the performances of all. It's especially a good vehicle for the talents of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Ryan steals the scenes she is in as DeDe and Angelica, because we know that that's Meg Ryan under the quirky makeup. The movie is fun to watch once, but that's about it.

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