Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cheap Thrills: Leonard Part 6 (1987)

Cheap Thrills is a column on The Following Preview featuring movies that can be had new at certain stores for $5 or less. Today's movie is Leonard Part 6 (1987), which I found at a Big Lots! store for $3.00.

I'd heard many things about Leonard Part 6 long before I finally got the chance to see it. When I was younger, I was a fan of the movie Ghost Dad, and later the movie Meteor Man, which also had Bill Cosby in it, and if I can find it, will be the subject of a later Cheap Thrills. During those Ghost Dad years, I considered renting Leonard, but ended up choosing not to for some reason. Now, almost a decade later, I find myself wishing I could buy Ghost Dad on DVD, but apparently I saw a TV version with several scenes I feel I'd miss too much, so I have to settle for Leonard Part 6.

This movie has a long-standing reputation as being one of the worst movies ever made -- so bad, in fact, that Cosby went from talk show to talk show telling people not to see it. He won three Golden Raspberries for it, which he requested be made of 24k solid gold and Italian marble. Is it as bad as they say? Actually, no. I've seen plenty of movies that were more painful to sit through, and most of Leonard Part 6 is just dull, but that poses another question: how can a film with the extremely likable Cosby playing an ex-secret agent called back into duty to stop a mad vegetarian from using mind-controlled animals to kill all the humans be this boring?

The problem is mostly the direction by Paul Weiland, who is apparently still directing films (like last year's crowning Patrick Dempsey achievement Made of Honor). Half the jokes are painfully telegraphed (mainly anything involving the awful narration), and the other half fall disappointingly flat. Most of them seem to have been thought up on a whim, such as a late-breaking joke where Cosby tries to say something mildly romantic to his estranged wife, but water falling from above is dropping right onto his face, and he splutters through the sentence. Did someone really think this would be funny? During a fight, Leonard forces his opponent to eat a hot dog, and the guy's head explodes. Was he allergic? Was it an explosive hot dog? Why am I asking these questions?

Occasionally, however, a joke or two will shine through. Cosby sells a handful of gags pretty well, despite looking extremely bored at all times, and even Weiland executes a couple of gags with directorial finesse (frogs hopping a car holding a CIA agent into a pond is visually amusing, and a finale involving Alka-Seltzer and dishwasher fluid looks pretty spectacular). Fans of The Matrix will note that the first Oracle, Gloria Foster, plays the vegetarian villain.

Leonard Part 6 is not worth your three dollars. If it had a little more verve, it might have been a demented little cult classic, but for all the random jokes in the movie that have psychotic yet clever payoffs (a fortune-telling woman, speaking a gibberish language not even Leonard understands, gives him butter, and when the punchline arrives, the reasoning makes some sort of drug-induced logical sense), the movie just can't pick up enough energy or enthusiasm to be more than a flop. Foster's character sums it up best, cackling as she watches Leonard using ballerina shoes to out-dance her flock of gymnastic, man-sized chickens: "Clever...but dumb."

Leonard Part 6 on IMDB.

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