Howard the Duck (1986) Movie Review

Title: Howard the Duck.
Rated: PG.
Director: Willard Huyck.
Writer(s): Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz.
Release Date: 1986.
Runtime:  1H 50Min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Comedy.
Cast: Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, Ed Gale, Chip Zien, Tim Rose, and many more!
Budget: $37,000,000.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

It can be a terrifying world when you’re instantly judged by the colour of your skin and not the content of your character. For one duck, life was never going to be the same the moment he found himself amidst humans, constantly pointing at his bill, laughing at his stature, and diminishing his character. Although he wishes deep down that everything he now faces was just a terrible nightmare, he doesn’t know that the world, Earth, in fact, has so much more planned for this white-feathered duck, that he was meant to achieve big things, despite his size, his looks, or what comes out of his pecker. The first Marvel theatrical release, directed by Willard Huyck, belongs to Howard the duck and, unfortunately for the world and this little guy, it’s a stinker and there’s no erasing it from our minds or the history of cinema.

What is Howard the Duck (1986) about? On Duckworld there lived a duck who went by the name of Howard. Surrounded by other anthropomorphic ducks, going on with their days just like any other humanoid on Earth, it was a world that Howard had never imagined differently, wholly accustomed to the normalcy of its cadence and ecosystem. On one unexpected night, as he decides to sit on his armchair and crack open his copy of PlayDuck (who knows what was going to happen next), he finds himself sucked into outer space and teleported to Earth, in the dirty alleys of Cleveland, Ohio. Alienated by his form, he befriends a struggling female rock singer named Beverly Switzler and faces the earthly challenges of fitting in. Unfortunately, when he expects it the least, he’ll have to pick between Earth and Duckworld as he tries to stop an alien invasion.

(c) High Def Digest.

What the duck was I even expecting? Howard the duck is one of the horniest ducks in the multiverse who finds himself a lonely and struggling girl to be his damsel in distress. Besides being a master of quack-fu, which, let’s be honest, was never going to be impressive on the big screen when you’ve got a gazillion puppeteers, one voice actor, and one suit performer, all working together to bring this scary child-size duck to life, our protagonist simply has no charm whatsoever with his overly-sarcastic bickering, unfunny cigar-smocking reflexes, and false macho demeanor. Throughout this overly-long movie, consistently inconsistent in tone, and thoroughly relentless in its inability to dish out one good joke, it wasn’t the cringe puns and repetitive duck remarks that dragged the feathered superhero into the mud but its writers’ fundamental incomprehension of the character.

With such an unlikable hero surrounded by other similar characters who desperately look to be called idiots—go figure why—you can’t help but wonder how all the sexual innuendos scattered throughout the movie could ever make this whole torturous viewing experience any better. From finding an open condom in Howard’s wallet (raising more questions than I want answers for) to a questionable flirting sequence (raising other questions about inter-specie sexuality than I ever thought of asking myself), you’d think that Howard could’ve been presented as a far different duck, one that could’ve broke the fourth wall, asking the real metaphysical questions about the universe, or simply just more sophisticated in nature. Unfortunately, viewers get an unconvincing and wacky duck, often put in the middle of the action for the sake of creating a scene, forced to be the hero no one asked for.

(c) High Def Digest.

Surprisingly, if you ignore the design flaws inevitably conveyed through Howard the duck, the movie does an impressive job with some practical and visual effects, especially once you get to the dinner sequence. That is if you get that far into the movie. The progressively de-evolving physical features of the Dark Overlord are also amazing, actually warranting disgust and repulsion at first sight. Even more unexpected is the neat stop-motion final form of the Dark Overlord integrated into the movie’s final act, seamlessly killing any chance the movie could ever be internally-coherent, but at least achieving a sense of wonder at the sight of this terrifying creature from outer space. Nonetheless, the final act still presents plenty of narrative and logical flaws, not allowing it to save the movie from impending commercial doom. But hey, the soundtrack in this movie is still pretty awesome and it couldn’t get any more resonant of the 80s than the music they’ve produced here. Just look up the closing title song and you’ll see. It’s a banger. As for the rest of the movie? Ignore it. Put it straight into the oven and hope it comes out more… tasty.

Howard the Duck (1986) is a goofy and unconvincing comedy adventure, oftentimes uneven in tone and unnecessarily long, featuring a horny and homesick talking duck trying to find his place in a world he doesn’t belong in as he somehow finds himself having to save humanity.

Howard the Duck (1986) is available for purchase and on select streaming services.

Have you read any Howard the Duck comics?
Have you seen Howard the Duck (1986)? Will you?
What did you think about it?
Share your thoughts with me!


42 thoughts on “Howard the Duck (1986) Movie Review

  1. First, to be perfectly blunt, who wouldn’t be horny with Lea Thompson? She was the stuff at the time.
    But PG, and condoms? Man, I think the 80’s had a very different sense of what parental guidance meant.

    From the whole review I’m picking up that you didn’t care for this. Is that an accurate sum up? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha I totally agree but I don’t want a duck to be the vehicle of all of those wet dreams… 😛 They definitely went all out with a lot of stuff that happens in the movie that would normally be PG13 for sure…

      Oh yes. And you’ll probably notice it a lot more whenever I fall on a really bad MARVEL movie. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. Lea was for us, not some duck, hahahaha 😀

        So you’re going to keep watching marvel movies? I’ll watch Antman 3 and GG 3 and then be done. I’m even done with spiderman and I never thought that day would come. c’est la vie!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep, I still watch every new one that comes out but I don’t review them (I’ll end up rewatching them much further down the line). I’m working my wait from oldest to newest now for this Marvel ranking project. Meanwhile, I’ll also keep on reviewing any new DC movies, being completely up to date with those now.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It was… a strange movie, a totally unnecessary one, I’ve seen parts of it, years ago on TV, and never felt the need to watch the rest. Luckily, we got many better comic book movies since then 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OMG, I remember watching this movie back when it came out, but I really don’t remember much about it. I believe I was expecting my second child at the time. You definitely made me laugh remembering, Lashaan.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The original comic series was great. What came later not so good. The whole meta-humour thing had jumped the shark. Was going to write something on this movie but never got around to it. The duck suit really kills it, and I thought the voicework was off too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit this, but I enjoyed this one. Granted, I watched it when it came out and was squarely in the target market, being a young teenage kid who’d already read some of the comics. But I’m not at all surprised by your reaction and I suspect if I were to watch it now, not having ever watched it before, I’d likely react the same way. You know, I think I may still have one of the oversized comic books in my collection. Want me to send that your way? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahahah I don’t blame you for having enjoyed this in the past! I could’ve seen myself enjoying this as one of those “so bad, it’s funny” kinds of movie. I can definitely guarantee that the comic you own is probably better than the movie though. 😛 I do plan on eventually reading Zdarsky’s omnibus of his run of Howard the duck. But, it’s probably not right now that I’ll dive into that hahaha


  6. Being a 90s child, I grew up with this movie and absolutely loved it. All the sexual stuff obviously went right over my head back then; besides duck boobies, those are seared into my memory. Lol. I haven’t watched it since I was a teen, I’m sure it is not as good as my nostalgia tells me it is. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Meanwhile, I’m currently reviewing a trilogy of good movies featuring Lea Thompson.

    I’ve been aware of this travesty for a long time. Every time I consider watching it out of morbid curiosity, I’m reminded of a scene early on that includes duck, uh … top half nudity. And this movie was supposed to be kid friendly.

    Also, George Lucas was one of the producers, and he’d been trying to get a comic book movie made ever since his 1973 surprise hit, American Graffiti.

    You know what the craziest part is though, the soundtrack composer, John Barry, is also the guy who created the James Bond theme, and continued to score the movie on and off up until 1987’s The Living Daylights. That movie came out the year after Howard the Duck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahah The Back to the Future movies are definitely far superior movies in every way possible compared to Howard the Duck though! Oh man, them female ducks are scarred into my memory now too… I am surprised that both Lucas and Barry are implicated in this in one way or another… Like… how…


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