Joe Versus The Volcano (1990)

Joe Versus the Volcano is a hard film to to write about. Roger Ebert said it better than I could in his review—“my heart began to quicken, until finally I realized a wondrous thing: I had not seen this movie before… Most movies are constructed out of bits and pieces of other movies… But not Joe Versus the Volcano.”The plot of JVtV is simple: After learning that he has a ‘brain cloud’ and only six months to live, Joe Banks (Tom Hanks) quits his job, and accepts an offer to “live like a king, die like a man” instead of waiting for the inevitable. To fulfill his end of the deal Joe must jump into a volcano on the island of Waponi Woo in order to appease the volcano god, and save the islanders from certain destruction.The journey to Joe’s date with destiny fully explores Meg Ryan’s remarkable range as she gets to play all of the women he meets along the way. From mousey co-worker DeDe, to red-haired, L.A. flibbertigibbet Angelica and finally Patricia, Anjelica’s soul sick, half-sister, who Joe falls for on the voyage to the volcano.Patricia doesn’t have DeDe’s ditziness nor Angelica’s faux-bohemian facade, and Meg doesn’t try to find a middle personality between them. It’s a difficult task, but Ryan, who is as enthralling as she is beautiful, has a field day, in one of those kismet actress-meets-role(s) performances. It’s some of her finest work.Joe Versus the Volcano switches tones and visual cues often, but as with Groundhog Day, it balances its irony and sincerity with perfect precision. If you’ve ever been told “Meg Ryan can’t act” or wondered where the fabled Hanks/Ryan chemistry had it’s beginning; you really should watch this film.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Joe Versus The Volcano (1990)

  1. Sweetha

    Now I just have to watch this movie!!!

  2. Beautiful post Paul, on the only one of their pairing I haven’t seen but now so want to. It sounds like one I’d definitely sob at. Off to check out the trailer!

  3. Just checked the trailer out, that looks so good – why have I not seen this film?????? Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  4. RB

    It may be difficult to write about, because it’s so refreshingly unusual – but your opening paragraph hits the bulls-eye and explains why that is. You actually might convince people who have not seen this movie, to see it, most treatments of this film are not nearly as persuasive. All I can offer to anyone who has not seen it, is SEE IT.

  5. Great post Paul 🙂 Joe Versus the Volcano seems to have gone on to become a comedy classic. And yes, Meg Ryan’s multiple roles in that demonstrate that of a female comedic genius. Prior to her, the only ones who pulled that off were actors Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers in Kind Hearts and Coronets and Dr. Strangelove respectively. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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