"You're dead for a real long time. You just can't prevent it. So if money can't buy happiness, I guess I'll have to rent it." -- "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC
To paraphrase one Tom Servo, some films simply defy the laws of sequential occurrence in space and time. Such a film is Amy Heckerling's 1984 sophomore effort, Johnny Dangerously. Why did 20th Century Fox feel that America needed or wanted an Airplane!-type spoof of melodramatic 1930s gangster pictures, specifically those of James Cagney? As it turned out, the film died a quick and ignoble death, shunned by critics and audiences alike one grim September before finding a marginal place in the pop culture landscape as a perennial time-slot filler on local TV stations and a semi-cult favorite on home video. When viewed objectively in 2010, Johnny Dangerously seems like a well-intentioned near-miss, chockablock with spirited comic performances, endearingly baroque touches, and memorable running gags, yet somehow missing that indefinable spark of creative genius that elevates a film to the level of a classic. And yet, for some nebulous reason, the film holds a mysterious, hard-to-explain charm. I myself have fallen under the film's sway to some degree and have watched it several times in preparation of this very article. Why? What is the secret of Johnny Dangerously?
To answer that question, I have made rather a study of this curious film -- unscientific, yes, but earnest in its diligence nevertheless. Herewith, I present (with very minimal attempt at organization) my observations on Johnny Dangerously. I hope you will find them edifying.