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Wednesday 29 August 2012

Burl reviews Moving Violations! (1985)

Yes sir, it’s Burl, here to review a very 1980s comedy movie for you, Moving Violations! This is not to be confused with Moving Violation, of course! There are a few commonalities between the two pictures, most notably the presence of automobiles, but the differences are legion! For instance, the makers of Moving Violations completely forgot to cast Dick Miller in their opus! Ha ha, too bad – he should have played the police commissioner or something, or perhaps at least the grandpa who gets hit in the croscharea with a bowling ball!
Yes, it’s that sort of picture! I saw and enjoyed Police Academy when it came out in 1984, but by the time this one came around a year or so later, I was quite content to ignore it, along with the other mid-budget comedies of the day: pictures like Real Men, Feds, Armed and Dangerous, Rustler’s Rhapsody and yes, even Brian DePalma’s Wise Guys! But I recently got my hands on a VHS copy and found that I was intrigued to see what Bill Murray’s little-known brother John would do with a starring role of his own! Ha ha!
John plays Dana Cannon, a tree nursery owner who runs afoul of a would-be fascist traffic cop played by James Keach! Keach is pretty good in the role too, and his moustache is just right for the part he’s playing! Along with a group of butterfingered or lead-footed misfits, Dana is ordered by Judge Sally Kellerman to complete a course in traffic school to be taught by Officer Keach and his equally jodhpur-clad and hard-nosed ladyfriend!
From there the plot involves some sort of corrupt deal between Judge Sally and Officer James, but that’s less involving than the vignettes involving the individual driving students! Ha ha, for its first half, especially if you watch it in increments over several days as I did, the movie starts to resemble a sprawling Los Angeles multi-story epic along the line of Short Cuts or Magnolia! It was even shot by Robert Elswit, who was the cinematographer on the Paul Thomas Anderson picture just mentioned!
It’s got a few moments that might qualify as mildly ha ha-worthy; and a few others, like the pixilated zero-gravity clothing that makes love, are pretty bizarre! The old ladies in the ensemble, one of whom was the famous Where’s The Beef lady, have a couple of good moments, and there’s the curious casting of not one but two veterans of that fine slasher picture The Burning! Mark The Rat Ratner (as the actor was called in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) appears here, and the other Burning alumnus is the guy who went skinny-dipping and later got a garden shears in the throat!
This latter actor here plays a guy who’s just mad about horror movies, and this sort of character was a bit of a staple in 80s comedy movies, ha ha! There are some horror loving characters in Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home, and of course there was Chainsaw and Dave in Summer School! In Moving Violations, though, the character is treated like a borderline psycho for liking such pictures! Ha ha!
Overall, Moving Violations is a pretty tepid comedy, a lot lighter on the funny jokes than a comedy should be! James Keach was good, and John Murray wasn’t as bad as I thought he might be, but the bottom line is that traffic school just isn’t that hilarious! I give Moving Violations one surprise appearance by Don Cheadle!

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