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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Retro Review: Banana Joe (1982)

Banana Joe
Cast: Bud Spencer, Marina Langner, Mario Scarpetta, Gianfranco Barra, Enzo Garinei
Genre: Action Comedy

Plot: A man must head to town for the first time for help when a mobster tries to steal his banana farm

'I Went Bananas For Joe, Okay I Didn't, But The Movie Needed To Provide More'

Banana Joe is a big, brawny yet kind-hearted friendly guy - in essence, he is the gentle giant who lives in a small village on a tropical island by a rain forest called Amantido with a large number of children, who can't get enough of his, erm bananas, as he regularly delivers them. When a gangster by the name of Torcillo arrives at Amantido as part of his plans to build a banana processing plant, Joe goes to lengths to put a stop to this. Snr Torcillo then finds Joe is selling bananas without a licence and sets out to bring him down. Joe also heads to the main city to obtain an identity licence. Along the way, he hooks up with and falls for an attractive club singer named Dorianne, during his adventures.

Banana Joe is a comedy hailing from Italy with some tongue and cheek humour that isn't grating and is very light and breezy. Originally, the film is in Italian, but the version I watched was the English dub. 

I never heard of Bud Spencer, but watching him in this movie, he certainly had the potential to make it as a comedic actor. Hailing from Italy, he was known for action comedy movies, such as 1985's Miami Supercops starring alongside his partner, Terrence Hill. He definitely is a dead ringer for Bluto of Popeye and could have easily have landed that role in the Popeye live-action film of 1980. Banana Joe is a lightweight and hearty film with a lead character who has a big heart, deep down and is witty in places. He is a giant cuddly teddy bear with his bullish, balky physical presence. Joe loves his bananas and eats so many of them, and they are loaded with potassium. 

Whilst the film looks splendid (it was shot in Columbia), the story should have been far more entertaining; Joe doesn't really beat up the bad guys properly, heck, his hands don't come into contact with them and they just end up falling and collapsing as if they have been hit. The scene where Joe is at an army training camp should have been funnier. 

Still, Banana Joe is a harmless movie and one where it doesn't make fun of big, and physically large characters, but rather embraces them, whilst at the same time making a point that they shouldn't always be thick-headed and that all of them aren't bad guy characters. The intro theme has a cheerful beat going for it - ''Joe! Oh, Banana Joe!'' and the movie's tone is upbeat and amusing. There is some action, yet after getting off to a good start, the film starts to wane in the middle. Although the final scene where he pulverizes the bad guys & smashes up the room with a hammer, was fun to watch.

Final Verdict:

With a distinctive appearance and personality & more hits under his belt, Bud Spencer might have made the grade as a comedic film actor. But as noble as his efforts are in Banana Joe, I was disappointed that after a good start that it didn't maintain my interest. The movie just didn't have enough going for it, as much as I'd have hoped it would do, and the comedy and humour never really transpired. 

As well as being bogged down by an insipid narrative, Banana Joe doesn't offer a lot, and that is a shame because I did like the premise and Joe is an endearing character. 


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