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Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Tom Hanks is a working stiff named Joe whose doctor (Robert Stack) tells him he only has a short time to live. Hearing the news, Joe accepts an offer from a businessman (Lloyd Bridges); In exchange for a few days of fun on Bridges’ credit cards, Joe will go to a South Seas island – the source of a mineral Bridges needs for his business – and jump in a volcano.

The natives require a human sacrifice; their chief (Abe Vigoda) can’t find any volunteers. So Bridges brings in Hanks. It’s good public relations and hell, what has Joe got to lose?

The drudgery of Joe’s office is shrewdly evoked, with Dan Hedaya hilarious as a boss who keeps repeating the same line on the phone (“I know he can get the job, but can he do the job?”).

Hanks, as ever, turns a comic line with effortless grace, and Meg Ryan – playing three vastly different women in his life – has rarely been more appealing.

The catch is that John Patrick Shanley, making his debut as a director, simply can’t do the job.

There’s no sense of pacing or forethought, and scenes seem thrown together. Individually, the actors are fine, but Shanley can’t blend their divergent styles.

Things reach the unendurable level when Joe hits the tropics, and we’re treated to antics of orange-drink-guzzling half-Jewish natives, led by Vigoda, that could shame Gilligan’s Island.

Tom Hanks
Meg Ryan
Lloyd Bridges
Dr Ellison
Robert Stack
Chief of the Waponis
Abe Vigoda
Mr Waturi
Dan Hedaya
Amanda Plummer
Ossie Davis
Jayne Haynes
David Burton
Jon Conrad Pochron

John Patrick Shanley