In the late 80s Chevy Chase bought the rights to a 1987 thriller novel about an invisible man in order to turn it into a vehicle for himself. After several years of development hell in which the director changed at least twice and the tone of the movie switched from thriller to comedy and back to thriller, Chevy finally got John Carpenter to direct and the result was the 1992 comedic adventure, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.
The chaotic development of this movie was somewhat chronicled by Carpenter himself in an interview published in Starlog #177. It’s interesting the iterations that this movie finally went through, check out that article in the link to see what Carpenter had to say about directing this movie.
I’d seen this movie back when it first hit VHS. I remember it in theaters at the time, but I didn’t see it because I was not really a Chevy Chase fan. He was kind of in the middle of a phase in his career in which he was playing smug douchebags (see Funny Farm, Nothing But Trouble, Deal of the Century and even Fletch Lives which is nearly unwatchable). So when it finally hit VHS, I rented it and gave it a shot. However, at the time I don’t remember liking it very much and thinking Chase was once again playing the smug D-bag who’s better and smarter than everyone else.
When I watched it for this review, I did it reluctantly, but I was curious to see if my previous thoughts were correct. And they were not. Chevy is actually mostly toned down in this movie. He’s goofy and endearing much the same way he was in the original Fletch. And Daryl Hannah is just adorable and sexy all wrapped up in one amazing package. The villain, I forgot, is the great Sam Neill who does NOT get enough play in movies today (Check out Daybreakers if you doubt my sincerity in that statement). This would be about 2 years before Neill would play Dr Grant in the first Jurassic Park movie. Other notable actors in this movie are the awesome Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowsky and the first big screen appearance of Patricia Heaton.
The setup of the movie is basically the same as the book. A guy, Nick Halloway (Chase) is trapped in an experimental process that goes wrong and is turned invisible. He comes to the attention of a shady government group led by David Jenkins (Neill) who does everything he can to capture Halloway.
However, while those story points are the same, the details have changed tremendously. For instance, Daryl Hannah’s Alice meets Nick before he turns invisible whereas in the book Alice doesn’t meet him until the last half of the book and has never actually seen him. Plus, the action takes place in and around San Francisco whereas in the book everything took place, for the most part, in New York City. In fact, I’d say New York City is a major character in the book as Nick knows the city pretty well and uses it to hide from the shady government agency.
But I’m here to review the movie as a whole, and not as an adaptation of the book. And, as a whole, the movie is enjoyable. Despite the changes from the book, I felt the movie was entertaining and the effects were actually pretty good. They even recreated invisible stunts from the book like vomiting and you get to see Nick smoke and covered in rain. Nice little effects that add up within the movie. The only negative I can place at the movie’s feet is the fact that the “memoirs” part of the story is essentially dropped not even half way through the movie. I liked Chevy’s narration and it helped remind me how much I also liked it (and Chevy) in the original Fletch. But, alas, it doesn’t last.
Something else I liked in the movie included a scene in which Nick is wearing the same outfit as the Claude Rains Invisible Man including the goggles, the robe with the checkered lapels and even an ascot.
That was a nice touch by Carpenter. This is a completely different movie than you’d expect from John Carpenter who’d just directed They Live four years before and had taken an extended break due to production difficulties on that movie. Two years after directing this movie he’d take Sam Neill and film an adaptation of Lovecraft’s In the Mouth of Madness. Also two years later Chevy Chase would top line Cops and Robersons with Jack Palance.
So while this movie may not have burned up the box office, it’s actually a fun little adventure movie. Give it a shot if you haven’t. And if it’s been a few years, I say give it another spin, I think you’ll like it.
Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.