‘Volunteers‘ is a comedy-drama directed by Nicholas Meyer and written by Keith F. Critchlow, David Isaacs, and Ken Levine. It was made by Silver Screen Partners.
Lawrence “Larry” Bourne III (Tom Hanks) is a Yale graduate and heir to a textile business who finds himself in hefty gambling debt. After his father (George Plimpton) refuses to pay off the debt, Larry trades places with his friend Kent (Xander Berkeley) to board a plane to Thailand with the Peace Corp to avoid getting beat up. On the plane, he meets Beth Wexler (Rita Wilson), Tom Tuttle (John Candy), and the team leader John Reynolds (Tim Thomerson). He hopes to return to America right away, but when he lands in Thailand, he finds that his father has ensured he is officially a Peace Corp member. Using his East Coast snobbish charm, he manages to befriend the only English-speaking villager At Toon (Gedde Watanabe). Soon, he finds himself entangled with village politics, a crime lord, and communists.
Before we begin, I would like to say that this movie is a good time. Tom Hanks is at his finest playing a stuck-up ivy league liberal stuck in the jungle. Rita Wilson is excellent as the do-gooder frustrated by her co-horts antics. John Candy is brilliant as the All-American kid who gets brainwashed by the Commies. Not to mention Watanabe, who was pretty funny. His part was basically seconadary, but grew as the movie went on.
As a comedy, it did have some humorous moments especially between Hanks and Candy. They both deliver some pretty good zingers, but the plot tries to do much. Had the film just focused on the “fish out of water” aspect, I think it could have flown a bit better. As it turns out, mixing in a communist conspiracy, crime lords, and a crazy survivalist who thinks he is a secret agent it soons becomes a little crowded. It sort of became a jumbled mess with too much drama in between the various subplots that the climax feels meshed.
One thing that was refreshing was how they made fun of communism. In today’s Hollywood, they have gone soft on the belief that has killed millions of people. This movie was being made at the tail-end of the Cold War, so there was still some insight on the commies.
Bottom line, Volunteers has a great cast, some comedic zingers, and no fear of making fun of commies, but it tries to do too much with its plot making it a bit of mess.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Some foul language, Minor violence, Brief sexual content including nudity
FAVORITE QUOTES: I haven’t seen a tube of toothpaste in two weeks and you have a bar.
Check out the trailer below:
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This article has been updated from a previous version.