joe vs the volcanoWarner Bros.

“Do you want to marry him?”
“Do you want to marry her?”
“Good. You’re married.”

The year was 1990, t’was the later spring time, and I was a 16-year-old buck with my first car and freedom and a bit of disposable income, so one Saturday afternoon I decide to catch a flick at the movie theater in town. “Town” being 20-25 minutes away by car. 15 minutes by foot. Yep, I just made an obscure M*A*S*H reference. Because that’s how I roll.

Anyway, the movie that I was fated to watch that afternoon was Joe Vs The Volcano. I remember choosing it because it starred Tom Hanks. At this point in his career, Hanks was famous, but he had yet to hit the uber-famous icon status that he would in the 1990s and beyond. Personally, I loved him in Big, so I caught Joe Vs. The Volcano on that strength alone. Also, the TV spots made it look like a wacky comedy. Only, Joe Vs. The Volcano wasn’t a wacky comedy, so much as it turned out to be an offbeat romantic comedy.

One more thing before I continue: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly certain this is the first on-screen team up between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Anyhoo…

Hanks plays the titular Joe, a desk jockey working a dead end and thankless job, until one day his doctor diagnoses him with a “brain cloud”, an incurable condition that will kill Joe within five or six months. Give or take a plot convenience. This gives him the motivation to quit his job and live the rest of his remaining time to his fullest. Soon thereafter, he’s approached by a wealthy industrialist with a proposition to have Joe sacrifice himself into a volcano to appease the natives of the Pacific island of said volcano, so he can mine a McGuffin mineral that is only found on that island, all within 20 days. Take as long as you need to let that process, there. Figuring he has nothing to lose, Joe agrees to this, and takes off on the wackiest boat ride of his life to the island. Along the way, he meets up with the daughter of the wealthy industrialist (well, one of ’em, anyway), gets caught in a storm and adrift on his floating luggage in the ocean (not the last time Tom Hanks was going to find himself adrift on the ocean in a movie), then serendipity! finds himself adrift-ed onto the very island he was supposed to be on, where the natives are lead by Abe Vigoda, who marries the two before they jump into the volcano together…only to have the volcano immediately belch them back out and destroy the island anyway. Which is fine, because it seems the doctor gave Joe a fake diagnosis in the first place, because the wealthy industrialist paid him to get a willing sacrifice. So, um…the end, I guess.

I have to admit that I wasn’t very much enamored with Joe Vs. The Volcano when I first watched it at the theater back in the day. I recall being a bit bored at points, but it was quirky enough to keep my interest. Even now, with me having developed a better appreciation for what it is as an offbeat dark comedy. To this day, my favorite part of the movie was where Abe Vigoda marries Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters by going “Do you want to marry him? Do you want to marry her? Good, you’re married. I’m going now.” Regardless, Joe Vs. The Volcano isn’t very high ranking in my Nostalgia Memory Banks. But, it’s more entertaining than the sum of its parts. Worth a look-see some time.