Sometimes I hear a movie is bad, only to find that it was really good in its own right. Sometimes movie people can be a bit snobbish and elitist. Sometimes a movie gets a bad rap for not being portrayed well in its promotional materials, leading people to expect a different movie than what was made. But sometimes the warnings are warranted, and the movie is just that bad.
WIRED (1989) is as bad as its reputation states. Maybe worse.
It’s based on the maligned book by Bob Woodward, chronicling the life and death of John Belushi. Those close to Belushi have stated the book misrepresents the famed comic. Multiple books have since been written to debunk Woodward’s biography. That should have been the first sign.
Production was doomed from the beginning. A number of people close to Belushi, from Saturday Night Live producer to co-stars Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd to THE BLUES BROTHERS director John Landis threatened to sue for invasion of privacy. Aykroyd even claims to have hired witches to curse the production of the movie. Yet others have stated the filmmakers overstated the controversy, claiming they’re trying to drum up publicity for a movie bound to fail under its own merits.
Before watching the movie I was bound to believe the filmmakers that this was “The movie Hollywood doesn’t want you to see.” After seeing it, though, I’m more bound to believe the latter.
The movie starts out the day Belushi dies of a drug overdose. We then get to follow the ghost of Belushi as he gets driven around by a Puerto Rican angel named Angel. He alternates between reflecting on important moments of his life, the current time (including being aware and conscious during his autopsy), and being in the paused time of Angel’s cab while he makes angry racist rants. That storyline switches with Bob Woodward trying to write his book, investigating what really happened in those last moments.
Non-linear storytelling is one thing. WIRED is hampered by multiple storylines which come and go with no real rhyme or reason. Also, the controversy causes its own problems. The filmmakers try and recreate iconic sketches, but without being granted the rights to use those characters or specific skits. A scene with Landis where a helicopter sound plays in the background just seems snippy (Landis was the director for the TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE scene when three actors were killed in a helicopter crash).
This was the first movie for star Michael Chiklis, who went on to have leads in THE SHIELD and THE COMMISH serieses. He auditioned for a total of three years to win this role and, while he did fine with his Belushi impersonation, it wasn’t enough to save him from this movie, and had trouble getting roles for a year and a half after the movie opened. Screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch had previously penned the cult magnum opus, THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984). He was the wrong choice to do something as straightforward as a biography. He wrote it with the same abstract absurdity as BUCKAROO BANZAI when audiences wanted a more straightforward celebration of a beloved icon. Director Larry Peerce who had previously directed such classics as GOODBYE, COLUMBUS (1969) and A SEPARATE PEACE (1972) never directed another feature.
In case you’re curious, here’s WIRED (but I wouldn’t recommend it):
Question of the night: What movie would you warn others to avoid at all costs?