Reviewed by Tom Panarese
Rating: 7.5 Beans
itting through "Moving Violations" is the cinematic equivalent of suffering through a pre-reunion Fleetwood Mac concert. You know, when the band was Mick Fleetwood and ... well, whomever he could get to play with him. You hear the names "Murray" and "Keach," and expect something pretty good ... then you see "JOHN Murray," "JAMES Keach," and you give the screen a double take before demanding a refund.
Led by all-around wise-ass Dana Cannon (John "brother of Bill" Murray), a hapless class of bad drivers endures traffic school taught by the instructors from hell—Deputy Halik (James "brother of Stacy" Keach) and Deputy Morris (Lisa "brother of ... well, nobody" Hart Carroll). Impossible written tests and an oil-slicked road test course are just two of the many obstacles Halik and Morris force their students to endure. Why will nobody pass the course? Well, Halik is out for revenge, of course. Early in the film, after an initial run-in with Dana, the officers destroy what they think is Dana’s car (right in front of a donut shop full of police officers. Cops at a donut shop? My God, what will they think of next?) with a classic "maybe I should give you a ticket for this broken tail light---SMASH!!!" tirade. Turns out, though, it’s the chief of police’s car and Halik and Morris are therefore demoted.
This, and a sentence from hard-assed judge Henderson (Sally Kellerman) puts Dana and Halik at odds with one another in traffic school. Among Dana’s classmates are Scott Greeber (Brian Backer) who hit a casket with a runaway puppet stage; Joan (Wendy Jo Sperber), who was in an accident and sent bowling balls spewing from the trunk of her hatchback; Mrs. Houk (Nedra Volz, who has made a career of playing "the old woman" in comedies. She also was Adelaide, the Drummond's second maid on "Diff'rent Strokes") who is so blind, she mistook a runway for a highway; and Amy (Jennifer "sister of Meg" Tilly). She is not only Dana’s love interest but also plays an airhead rocket scientist who not only has sex with him in an zero-gravity chamber, but is the unfortunate object of the following joke:
"Look at the body on her."
"Yeah, but she’s not exactly a rocket scientist."
And guess what? Amy works at NASA ... she’s a ROCKET SCIENTIST.
Definitely an eye-roller, but then again, the movie was written and directed by the same guys who brought the world "Police Academy" and "Bachelor Party," so I really wouldn’t expect anything less. So, the movie has to have a plot—after all, this is the 1980s, so there has to be something that our nutty hero uncovers to lead to a big chase scene at the film’s end—it seems that Halik and Henderson are scamming the city by embezzling money from the sales of impounded cars. That’s why nobody passes the course!!! Dana and his gang find out and set out to reveal their plans. To do so, they have to retrieve a ledger that Henderson keeps on her nightstand ... while she’s in bed with Halik. And who has to retrieve it? Blind-as-a-bat Mrs. Houk. The result is a "Blues Brothers"-esque race through downtown ... well, they never give a city’s name here, but it’s probably Los Angeles ... to city hall (there’s even a scene where Dana runs through a policeman’s convention and after Halik screams "stop that man, he’s wanted!" has a few hundred cops chasing him).
It’s not without its moments, though. First, the movie takes its place in 1980s celebrity cameo history with an appearance by Clara Peller, aka the "Where’s the Beef" lady. And for those of you who enjoy watching unsuccessful films for today’s successful stars (in other words, at least this is a movie that somebody successful and/or respected in Hollywood wishes would go away), Don Cheadle has a small role as a "Juicy Burgers Worker." Of course, I think you should watch it for two key scenes: "Blood Flows Red on the Highway," the driver’s ed film the class watches about 1/3 of the way through the movie; and Joan’s visit to what she thinks is a doctor’s office where she strips naked and winds up sitting on a lift before realizing that she’s at an auto clinic.
Believe it or not, there are fans of this movie (I admit it, I own a copy), mostly people who share my opinion and revel in its utter stupidity; others who actually believe this is an underrated genius of a comedy. Then again, those are the same people who found "Dude, Where’s My Car" intelligent. "Moving Violations" is up there with "Paramedics" and the aforementioned "Police Academy" series (the sequels, not the first one) as subject for a Comedy Central marathon of idiotic movies you can’t believe were ever made.
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