When Tom Hanks was funny
Reprising his role as Robert Langdon in 'The Da Vinci Code' follow-up 'Angels and Demons', Tom Hanks is taking things seriously again. Time Out recalls the days when the 'Big' guy played for laughs
Splash (1984)Character: Allen BauerClick here for original Time Out review Having established his nice-guy credentials with mercifully forgotten whitefro 'n' shoulderpads sitcom ‘Bosom Buddies’ in the early ’80s, Hanks broke big with his first romantic lead as the hapless, whitefro 'n' shoulderpad-sporting nice-guy businessman who falls in love with Daryl Hannah’s leggy mermaid.
Funniest scene: Hanks is, unsurprisingly, outshone throughout by boisterous big brother John Candy, who steals the film’s finest moment by playing squash while drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Hanks’s funniest scene has to be this Billy Crystal-esque bar-stool rant against God and the universe.
Volunteers (1985)Character: Lawrence Bourne IIIClick here for original Time Out review This one is less ‘when Hanks was funny’ than ‘when Hanks thought he was a screwball deity and tried to get away with playing a waspish Harvard chump with a gambling addiction and a Boston-via-Bad Homburg accent that sounds like it was devised in the Yellowcab on the way to the set’. He is duly sent off to South-East Asia to build a bridge for the native drug cartel for his sins, with mostly execrable results. Funniest scene: To represent Hanks’s trip across the globe, he drives through an antique map in a soft-top Corvette.
The Money Pit (1986)Character: Walter Fielding Jr Click here for original Time Out review ‘Wall Street’ meets ‘Home Alone’ in this timeless Yuppy-in-peril parable. Cuddly asset-stripping bastard Hanks and his staple-faced wife Shelley Long think they’ve scored something of a coup by snaffling a bargain-basement, fixer-upper mansion – until they realise they have, in fact, bought a festering clapboard timeshare direct from Satan’s own sulphurous portfolio. More than the Matthew Modine character in ‘Pacific Heights’ or even Hanks’s own turn in ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’, Tom’s smugness highlights all that was wrong with Reagan’s ‘trickle down economics’ farrago.
Funniest scene: Any featuring Dabney Coleman.
Dragnet (1987)Character: Pep StreebeckClick here for original Time Out review The Big Tombola delivered one of his most energetic comic performances to date in this lovingly detailed, big-budget parody of Dad's Own US TV mainstay ‘Dragnet’. Being partnered with Dan Aykroyd’s uptight, by-the-book LA detective Sgt Joe Friday allows Hanks to play the ass, bone street-legal hookers and drum up some righteous mayhem while solving a case that takes in copious amounts of drugs, some hircine devil worship and prim debutante ‘The [erstwhile] Virgin Connie Swail ’.
Funniest scene: Hanks eats a Play-Doh omelette.
Big (1988)Character: Josh BaskinClick here for original Time Out review Or: when gangly ol’ Hanks fluttered down from his wacky cloud and into the hearts of a million Midwestern day-shifters. This movie really is the ‘Birth of a Nation’ of ’80s body-swap comedies. Some cinema history books even go so far as to say this was the film that legitimised the 'sharkskin sports jacket combined with stonewashed jeans and oversized Reebok pumps' look.
Funniest scene: A scour on YouTube for the famous FAO Schwarz giant keyboard scene proved futile, so this one will have to suffice.
The 'burbs (1989)Character: Ray PetersonClick here for original Time Out review The sun was setting on Hanks's comedy epoch when he signed on to this underappreciated Hitchcockian romp from ‘Gremlins’ director Joe Dante. Hanks cruises on autopilot for his role as browbeaten everyman Ray Peterson, whose lazy week off turns Cormanesque when a family of Transylvanian freaks move into his quiet cul-de-sac.
Funniest scene: Once again, its Hanks’s co-stars who shoulder the bulk of the comedy burden, from slapstick schlub Rick Ducommun to Corey Feldman’s last great role as the metalhead doofus across the street. This scene is largely memorable for the sight of a manic and half-shaven Bruce Dern clambering around in the back of a garbage truck, to the dismay of Dante regular Dick Miller.
(1989)Character: Detective Scott Turner
Click here for original Time Out review He’d been to college, he’d been in the Peace Corps and he’d survived the suburbs, so the only direction remaining on Tom’s comedy satnav was the mismatched canine-buddy police comedy. Playing like a fairly stock TV policier with Bontempi jazz sountrack and a stellar central performance, as man-and-mutt pics go, this one’s up there with ‘Umberto D2: Dog Baseball’.
Funniest scene: Hanks possesses the rare talent of making shouting funny (see also 'A League of Their Own'), and there’s lots of it in this.
A League of Their Own (1992)Character: Jimmy DuganClick here for original Time Out review Ex-baseball star Dugan has turned to the bottle with the same lack of conviction that Hanks applied to this cut ’n’ paste attempt at ‘character acting’ as the coach of an all-female wartime baseball team. Not entirely sexist, not quite rooted in his ways and not really all that hard to get along with, Jimmy is a bit of a wet fish all round, but he does get some chewy lines and the chance to hang around in the locker room with Lori Petty and Geena Davis, so the role did at least offer some fine perks.
Funniest scene: During an argument with an umpire, Jimmy idly enquires ‘Did anyone ever tell you, you look like a penis with that little hat on?’
The Ladykillers (2004)
Character: Professor Goldthwait Higginson Dorr III, PhDClick here for original Time Out review Hanks’s first comedy role since ‘Forrest Gump’. We must admit, we’re with Tom Paulin on this one…
Funniest scene: Along with all the hilarious Bob Jones University 'gags', Hanks dumping bodies on the rubbish barge is funnier each time you see it. As is his tongue-twisting Southern drawl.
Author: Adam Lee Davies, David Jenkins, Tom Huddleston
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