Joe Versus the Volcano | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Joe Versus the Volcano

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Scriptwriter John Patrick Shanley (Five Corners, Moonstruck) makes his directorial debut in a whimsical, contemporary fairy tale with romance and adventure that doesn't quite come off, but it's sufficiently fresh, charming, and unpredictable to deserve special marks for trying. Tom Hanks plays a former fireman now stuck in a depressing job who is told by his doctor (Robert Stack) that he has only a short time to live. A wealthy businessman (Lloyd Bridges) appears, offering him red-carpet treatment and a bunch of credit cards if Hanks will sail to a remote Pacific island (where the businessman wants to gain mineral rights) and dive into a volcano in order to appease the natives. Meg Ryan plays all three leading ladies in the plot--a secretary and both of the businessman's daughters--and Abe Vigoda, Amanda Plummer, Barry McGovern, and Ossie Davis are around for other offbeat parts. In the course of borrowing liberally from Delmer Daves's Bird of Paradise, Shanley manages to achieve some striking (if fanciful) pictorial effects and a few goofy gags and plot turns; he also tries for some uplift that may be less convincing but is easy enough to take. There's nothing profound going on here, but the results are imaginative and fun. (Biograph, Bricktown Square, Burnham Plaza, Chicago Ridge, Golf Mill, Lincoln Village, 900 N. Michigan, Orland Square, Woodfield, Grove, Evanston, Hillside Square, Ford City, Deerbrook, Yorktown)

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