Joe Verses the Volcano (1990)


QUICK! READ THIS NEXT SENTENCE! This movie was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, the same person who wrote and directed the Meryl Streep movie Doubt (2008). He also wrote the screenplay for Moonstruck (1987).  Obviously, Joe Verses the Volcano deserves a few moments consideration. So stop laughing.

If movies could be compared to paintings, Joe Verses the Volcano would be a Salvador Dali. Whimsical, with dark tones. And not for all tastes.

A surreal fantasy using the theme of impending death with little or no hope of salvation. The plot: a dreary man, Joe, (played by Tom Hanks) living a dreary existence in a dreary job, discovers he has months to live. A benefactor, Samuel Graynamore (played by Lloyd Bridges) offers him a week of riches if he will jump into an active volcano on a tropical island. Graynamore has struck a deal with the island’s inhabitants, the Waponis. In exchange for the human sacrifice, he will receive mineral rights to the island’s precious mineral, boobaroo.

Along Joe’s crooked path, he comes across other lost souls, most importantly Meg Ryan (playing three different roles). Ossie Davis, Nathan Lane, Abe Vigoda, and Barry McGovern (mesmerizing in a scene playing a luggage salesman) show all actors how important timing is to their craft. The nuanced script, spoken by these actors, delivers lines you’ll be repeating for weeks after viewing.

So looking for a movie that deals with life, death, and their meaning? Then watch Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and run the risk of being bored to death, or watch Joe Verses the Volcano and run the risk of laughing your self to tears.

As Joe says, “Take me . . . TO THE VOLCANO!”


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