Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), written and directed by John Patrick Shanley.

Not much point in summarizing the absurd plot. It is a fable of courage set in the movie-magic romantic comedy universe, progressing from the soul-killing pointless factory from Hell through revitalizing shopping in New York and dining in LA, to -- well, not exactly Heaven, but a stage comedy Polynesian paradise with a needy volcano.

Tom Hanks tracks this progress, looking really ill at the beginning but then coming to life and health as he willingly races toward his death.

Meg Ryan plays three parts, each with different hair and eye color, and each more appealing than the previous. She would team with Hanks again in Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You've Got Mail (1998).

One really stunning scene: afloat on a raft, out of water and near death, Hanks watches an impossibly huge tropical moon rise: "Dear God, thank you for my life. I forgot how big..."

Critical opinion is split on this one, ranging from worst big budget film ever made (Vincent Canby) through "guilty pleasure" (Richard Schickel) to "new and fresh and not shy of taking chances" (Roger Ebert).

Rich supporting cast: Dan Hedaya, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Ossie Davis, Amanda Plummer, Abe Vigoda.

I'm sure I worked in that nightmare factory with the deranged boss. It's just as I remember.

Georges Delerue score. Photographed by Stephen Goldblatt.

Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive.