Dennis Quaid aka Furious DQ is the subject of this list of brief film reviews. Ignore Buzzfeed reports that Dairy Queen (DQ) is partnering with Balladeer’s Blog to sponsor a Dennis Quaid Film Festival in Rio. In fact, you should just ignore ALL Buzzfeed reports, period, at this point.
Let’s dive into this look at some of the films of Ed Miller himself from The Long Riders: Dennis Quaid. NOTE: These will be films in which Dennis was the male lead, hence no Right Stuff, Wyatt Earp, etc. Quaid should have been made the new Indiana Jones right after Harrison Ford’s Last Crusade in 1989. Magnificent missed opportunity.
THE BIG EASY (1986)
Role: Police Detective Remy McSwain
Female Lead: Ellen Barkin
Comment: One of the most underrated films of the 1980s. Think of The Big Easy as Cajun-blackened Film Noir, which, of course, makes it colorful and upbeat Film Noir with kickass music.
Set in New Orleans (known as the Big Easy for you overseas readers) this hardboiled mystery features Assistant DA Anne Osborne (Barkin) clashing, bickering, flirting with and falling for Quaid as Lt Remy McSwain. Remy is investigating Wiseguy murders that hint at an impending gangster war while Anne is probing police corruption.
The sparks fly between McSwain and Osborne but we viewers wonder if he’s playing her because he has too much to hide or if she’s playing him A Taxing Woman style. We also wonder if the omerta practiced by Remy and his police colleagues is simply because of the casual graft they’re into or if they’ve graduated from being crooked cops to being outright soldiers of organized crime.
Ned Beatty, Grace Zabriskie and John Goodman are in supporting roles in this enjoyable mystery/ rom-com/ travelogue for New Orleans.
GREAT BALLS OF FIRE (1989)
Role: Jerry Lee Lewis
Female Lead: Winona Ryder
Comment: What The Buddy Holly Story was to Gary Busey, this movie was to Dennis Quaid. Hollywood bio-pic rules apply so the emphasis is on old-school rock music and a rip-roaring good time instead of accuracy. The movie plays its story so lightly and entertainingly that the approach works.
Alec Baldwin provides momentary distractions by channeling his creepy preacher character from Knot’s Landing for his portrayal of Jimmy Swaggart, the Killer’s cousin … whom he marries. I’M KIDDING! Swaggart was Jerry Lee Lewis’ cousin but not the one he married – that was Myra Gale Brown (Ryder).
Don’t look for depth or even for the definitive biography of Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s all about rock and roll music shaking up Eisenhower’s America and shocking the prudish. The Killer as depicted here was on a roll and on top until he grossed out everyone by marrying his 13 year old cousin.
Steve Allen plays himself in a scene that comically embellishes Lewis’ memorable appearance on Allen’s show.
Role: Professor Dexter Cornell
Female Lead: Meg Ryan
Comment: This movie is often bashed as an “inferior” remake of the 1949 Film Noir hit. I disagree, because this 1988 production – directed by the team behind Max Headroom – makes it clear that it’s as much a clever homage as it is an updating of the original D.O.A. You want to talk “inferior remake” talk about 1969’s Color Me Dead, not this item.
Quaid plays burned-out novelist turned English professor Dexter Cornell. After a fling with one of his students, Meg Ryan as Sydney Fuller (Hellooo! Easter Egg, detractors!) our protagonist learns he’s been given a slow-acting poison for which there is no antidote.
With time running out, Cornell tries to find out who poisoned him to make sure they pay for it. Complicating things as he and Sydney hunt for the killer is the fact that our hero is being hunted by the cops for murders he’s been framed for.
As part of the homage, this film starts out in black & white then switches to color. From there, helping to symbolize the countdown that Dexter is working against, color slowly drains from the film, reducing things to black & white again by the finale.
ENEMY MINE (1985)
Role: Willis E Davidge
Female Lead: Louis Gossett, Jr (I’m kidding … partially.)
Comment: Wolfgang Peterson, director of Das Boot, helmed this thoughtful science fiction movie adapted from Barry Longyear’s novella.
Decades in the future Earth is at war with aliens called Dracs. During a battle out in space a human fighter pilot – Quaid – and a Drac warrior – Gossett – both crash-land and become stranded on a neglected planet. The two are forced to overcome their mutual hatred in order to survive.
Misleading reviews make it sound like the entire film takes place on the remote planet but actually that is not so. The bulk of it does, and there are plenty of touching moments as the former enemies forge a friendship. Eventually Jeriba, the Drac, dies in childbirth (his race reproduces asexually) and Davidge, the human, must raise Jeriba’s child Zammis.
There are clashes with interstellar scavengers who raid the planet and we also get to see Davidge fight to return young Zammis to his homeworld for a crucial naming ceremony. Our hero had promised the dying Jeriba that he would do so, but Davidge’s attempts to fulfill that promise get him suspected of treason.
Think Gene Roddenberry meets Das Boot meets Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Enemy Mine gets schmaltzy at times but it’s still enjoyable and it’s not nearly as preachy as it would be if made today.
UNDERCOVER BLUES (1993)
Role: Jeff Blue
Female Lead: Kathleen Turner
Comment: After seeing this flick it’s hard not to wish that Quaid and Turner had teamed up as Nick and Nora Charles for a remake of The Thin Man.
The Thin Man series of films is what viewers should keep in mind when watching Undercover Blues. It’s not meant to be a 100% serious drama, it’s intended as light-hearted espionage with a likable, attractive couple who survive a highly unlikely adventure.
Dennis and Kathleen are federal agents Jeff and Jane Blue, on vacation with their newborn daughter. In between Nick and Nora banter and contemplations of a name for their daughter, the couple get caught up in an impromptu case.
Stanley Tucci is Muerte, the often-comical villain. Larry Miller and Obba Babatunde are the ineffectual cops who are always outdone by our two leads. Tom Arnold and Park Overall are a friendly civilian couple who interact with the undercover Blues.
If you have to, think of this movie as a more serious version of a Moonlighting episode if David and Maddie had gotten married and had a baby girl, then went on vacation with her. Or maybe if Axel Foley had gotten married, had a baby girl and went on vacation with her.
There’s action and comedy and sexy leads, so why not rent or stream it for a date night?
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