Sunday, January 25, 2009
Through the 80's and 90's Rick Moranis appeared in several films that I cherished while growing up, and his characters always stuck in my mind even when he didn't take center stage. If you were making a movie in the 80's and you needed a awkward yet lovable nerd/goof, he was the guy for the job. I think it would be impossible for him to play an unpleasant character. But at the end of the 90's his roles tapered off and the only thing he's done of notice in the last 10 years has been voicing a moose in Brother Bear. A family tragedy led Moranis to retire from acting and focus on raising his children, and I can certainly respect that. Still, I can't help but wish he would reappear in movies every now and then; bring back some of the simple charm of 80's comedy. So here are the characters that showed us what a funny and likable guy Moranis could be.
5. Bob McKenzie (Strange Brew, 1983/ SCTV, 1981-83)
Along with Dave Thomas, Rick created and played the embodiment of Canadian stereotypes ... and that was the point. They deliberately combined every negative stereotype possible as a way of protesting government requirements for Canadian content on SCTV. So we ended up with two stupid brothers drinking beer, wearing toques, and spouting the essential "eh's". The skit was a surprise success and even resulted in a movie about the two "hosers". While the movie isn't great comedy, the characters deserve recognition for practically copyrighting these stereotypes and giving us a great example of Canadian comedy - the willingness to laugh at yourself.
4. Wayne Szalinski (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, 1989)
As far as family movies go, this is essential viewing (you can skip the three sequels). Rick plays a scientist who builds a Shrinking machine in his attic (how cool is that?) and when it unexpectedly starts working the machine shrinks both his two kids, and two neighbour kids. Without realizing, Szalinski sweeps up the children and throws them out in the trash. While the movie focuses on the four kids traversing the now jungle-sized backyard to get back to the house, it alternates with Szalinski and the other parents desperately searching for them. Moranis is perfectly cast as the nerdy father and he is great alongside the sports-lovin' father next door (played by the under appreciated Matt Frewer). A good-natured scientist desperately working to find recognition with an experimental machine and nearly obliterates four children. Sounds entertaining to me.
3. Louis Tully (Ghostbusters, 1984)
In one of the best movies of the 80's and one of the greatest comedies of all time, Moranis plays nerdy accountant and neighbor, Louis Tully. Although he's essentially a secondary character, he steals the show at times when he is unexpectedly pulled into the paranormal mayhem of the movie. It's hilarious when he is chased down by a dog-beast and possessed to become the "Keymaster", and then begins to track down the "Gatekeeper", played by Sigourney Weaver. Woah, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver ... sexy? Well, it's funny if anything and the movie wouldn't have been the same without him.
2. Dark Helmet (Spaceballs, 1987)
Okay...for starters, this character is hilarious without him even opening his mouth. Rick Moranis fused with Darth Vader is awesome. That's like combining Voldemort with Gilbert Gottfried. He's a bumbling villain who is always trying strike fear in his enemies, but can barely manage to breathe in his oversized helmet. There are so many great scenes with this character, like when he launches the ship into ludicrous speed, plays with his dolls, and has a light saber duel with Lone starr. Moranis was the ideal choice to play the evil pipsqueak commander, and his lines are among the funniest. I dare you not to laugh when he curses in this film ("Come back, you fat, bearded bitch!").
1. Seymour Krelborn (Little Shop of Horrors, 1986)
One of the strangest musicals, hell, strangest things ever put on the screen. Despite having watched this film dozens of times, I still have trouble wrapping my head around how a film like this can even exist. Rick plays Seymour Krelborn, a poor timid guy who was raised as an orphan by a florist in run-down city neighborhood. He works and lives in the crummy shop, secretly longing to be with the shop assistant, Audrey, and working on raising exotic plants. He comes across a strange plant that grows rapidly when fed blood, and soon things get out of hand. And it's a musical! Seymour is a great character, a true underdog who is pushed around his whole life, and somehow ends up with the girl and being a hero. Even though he participates in some dark activities in the film, you still can't fault him, because his intentions are always sincere. Moranis sings surprisingly well and it's pure entertainment when he breaks into song with a giant man-eating plant. Basically Seymour sums up the style of Rick's acting and the characters he portrays; a simple kind-hearted guy who often finds himself in difficult situations, yet never gives up. You can't help but root for that.