Going Berserk

Going Berserk. Universal Pictures 1983.
Going Berserk. Universal Pictures 1983.

Before watching the movie:

This movie’s plot looks completely insane, which I suppose fits the title. John Candy acquires a congressman’s enemies by getting engaged to his daughter, so religious aerobic instructors come after him, and then somehow the poster is involved at some point. I have no idea what to expect.

I’d never heard of this movie before. I don’t remember what specifically got it recommended to me, but it’s in my list with a handful of other John Candy movies. The timing might put it in line with when I looked up Top Secret!, but this one may not have been the one specifically like it.

After watching the movie:

Limo driver and semi-professional drummer John Bourgignon is getting married to the daughter of Senator and presidential hopeful Ed Reese. Reese has two problems: one, he doesn’t think John is good enough for his daughter, and two, he’s the crusader in a high stakes case against a cult of aerobic exercisers, which he believes is only a tax evasion scam. The cult’s leader, Rev. Sun Yi Day is actually using the rhythmic exercise to brainwash followers, and tasks his chief lieutenants with hypnotizing John into assassinating Reese. However, they screw it up so that his hypnotic cue causes him instead to act goofy, without any sense of inhibition.

Much like Airplane, this movie is a series of jokes strung together with a bit of plot. There was a digression from the main plot for most of the first hour to do a bunch of jokes in an entirely different story inside this story, concerning John getting a gig drumming at a male strip club, brawling with the ladies for getting too aggressive with a dancer, being sentenced, and getting handcuffed to a murderer and forced to keep up with the murderer’s escape. I was waiting for the main plot to return, but the digression was too funny for to get annoyed. It does somewhat open up a plot hole of either Reese not seeming to care that John got convicted and is now a fugitive from the law or John not caring much about keeping this fact from Reese. Once he gets separated from the other guy, it’s barely mentioned again.

I’m probably more disappointed than I should be that this protagonist doesn’t seem to be much of a protagonist. Things happen to him, and sometimes he does things, but he ranges from merely reactive to fully passive. I’m not entirely sure if his second job as a (terrible) drummer counts to make his character at all round, since it enables the major digression, but it’s the only thing he has going for him. I shouldn’t be too bothered by it though, because after all this is a vehicle for John Candy to act hysterical in. That is something the movie and the character excel at doing.

I came into this wondering what it was. Having seen it, all I can say is, “well, that was a movie. It was usually funny.” I saw it, I got all the jokes, I understood the plot, but as a whole, I can’t quite figure it out. It’s just strange. It was a bit like a sketch movie, only with a particularly strong connecting narrative, so I suppose I could compare it to Monty Python and the Holy Grail in that regard. It’s probably more like that than I want to readily admit, because it’s much more natural to accept such a structure from a British sketch group, and “Grail” is a classic in a way this isn’t. Ultimately, all I can say is, “it just is.”

 

Watch this movie: if you’re a fan of John Candy.

Don’t watch this movie: if you’re a fan of cohesive narrative.

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