The strange worlds of Superpals
Miami Connection was the obvious pick when putting together the shortlist for our Oddeon summer special. The 1987 cult b-movie is a barely coherent adventure with a firmly 80’s heritage, set against the neon glow of a Florida sunset. The perfect fit for a summer evening celebrating cinematic oddities.
Y.K. Kim, the producer, director, writer and star of the film took the same earnest approach to film making as later seen by Wiseau with The Room, but with a grandiosity borne of the era. Miami Connection has the ambition of a much more meaningful production, with its large cast, set and attempts at high drama, but by Kim’s own admission, “Every distribution company rejected it after screening and said to me, ‘Don’t waste your time. Just throw it away; it is trash,'”
Finding a suitable companion movie to pair Miami Connection with came surprisingly easily. Y.K. Kim’s genuine and authentic attempt at making a statement on the inspirational power of friendship had to be countered by the opposite approach – a movie that deliberately stretches reality in absurd ways to make room for its exaggerated troupe of BFFs; The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension.
1984’s Buckaroo Banzai is presented firmly tongue-in-cheek and as such takes things a little further from reality. Not content with anything so mundane as learning about family and shutting down a gang selling “stupid cocaine”, the movie instead rips a hole in the fabric of reality to reveal a mash of features more in line with traditional sci-fi b-movies; alien invasions, mad scientists and advanced technologies.
Friends through eternity
The positive force of friendship runs heavily through both movies, with each Superpal team – Dragon Sound from Miami Connection, and The Hong Kong Cavaliers from Buckaroo Banzai – exhibiting the nakama ideals of co-operation, trust and teamwork to succeed. Dragon Sound, led by Y.K. Kim’s “Mark”, seem to entrench themselves in each others lives, dedicated to working together to solve their collective and individual problems, particularly if they can be solved using taekwondo or while not wearing a shirt. The Cavaliers appear to have a more detached approach, guided more by the actions of Peter Weller’s Buckaroo, but with relationship roles hinting at a more symbiotic existence that’s not immediately clear. Buckaroo may be an individual of exemplary talents, but it’s apparent that his Superpals are heavily, if subtly, instrumental in his adventures.
Both movies have a strong approach in stacking up defining characteristics for their Superpals. In Dragon Sound’s case, they’re a misfit group of orphans who have formed a college synth-rock band to sing about friendship, while also dedicating their martial arts abilities to battling motorcycle ninjas and shutting down the Florida drug trade. The Hong Kong Cavaliers, however, maintain Buckaroo Banzai‘s tendency to take it a step further, with the group similarly adept in martial arts and synth-rock, but also leaders in their respective scientific fields, battling against an inter-dimensional alien invasion.
I thought we are all orphans
While the ‘Sound are originally pals of circumstance due to their shared upbringing at the orphanage, the Cavaliers are a more organically grown group, seemingly selected by Buckaroo Banzai himself to be his entourage of experts. In introducing the character of Buckaroo to the audience, we also witness the introduction and invitation of Jeff Goldblum as their newest member, ‘New Jersey’, in a scene of breakneck exposition pacing.
Buckaroo Banzai: You ever thought about joining me full time?
New Jersey: What do you mean, you serious? Do you have an opening?
Buckaroo Banzai: Uh huh. Can you sing?
New Jersey: A little, yeah… I can dance.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Is anybody out there not having a good time?
Even under the guidance of the esteemed Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, it’d be tough to imagine Dragon Sound winning out over the Hong Kong Cavaliers. They may have the combination of a naive determination and a penchant for violence, but the Superpals of Miami Connection just don’t stack up against Team Banzai’s dimension-hoppping, alien-fighting super-scientists. Under Buckaroo’s leadership they’re always going to save the world and look great doing it. Dragon Sound, however, might just bumble into winning and find their dad if they’re lucky.
Both Miami Connection & The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension are showing as part of the Oddeon Friendship Edition: Summer Double-Bill on Thursday July 6th at Regather Sheffield.