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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the plot of the 1990 comedy Joe Versus the Volcano rests on the idea that the main character will commit suicide since he has a terminal illness. Despite the morbid premise, the cult classic is mostly upbeat, but an extended typhoon leaves background characters missing and main characters stranded for a while. One of the characters smokes, and there is some drinking, and a bit of profanity ("s--t"). The island inhabitants are also portrayed stereotypically.
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What's the story?
Joe Banks (Tom Hanks), a former firefighter, works at a dismal job that is making him believe that he is sick all of the time. When he visits his doctor (Robert Stack), Joe is informed that he has a "brain cloud" and has less than six months to live. Joe immediately quits his lousy job, and while at home, is visited by a mysterious man (Lloyd Bridges) who says he is familiar with Joe's heroism as a firefighter. He offers him unlimited money to spend for the remainder of his days if he will go to the island of Wapani Woo to jump into an active volcano and be the human sacrifice the islanders believe is needed to silence the grumbling volcano god. Joe agrees, but on the boat ride to the island, Joe meets Patricia (Meg Ryan, who also plays Joe's two other almost-love interests in the movie), the mystery man's daughter and captain of the ship. During the dangerous voyage, the two fall in love, and Joe must decide whether or not to dive into the volcano, or to take a chance on life and love and believe that maybe the "brain fog" isn't real.
Is it any good?
One would expect a lot more from JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. It's got a potentially funny and entertaining storyline, the soon-to-be beloved rom-com combo of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, Steven Spielberg as an executive producer, and Abe Vigoda on board as the leader of the South Pacific island tribe. This makes it all the more disappointing that the movie doesn't quite succeed as a comedy, as an adventure, or even as a comment on seizing the day.
The bottom line is that the story gets lost in an indulgence of montages and over-long side-stories involving Meg Ryan playing different characters. The title promises a volcano, and instead, it's Joe Versus a Typhoon, or Joe Versus the Phoniness of Los Angeles. By the time Joe's actual love interest arrives on the scene, we're about an hour in, and it's not until much later that we actually see that gosh darn volcano. It isn't a terrible movie, and it has enough of a cult following to keep it at three stars, but far too many moments of comedy fall flat and far too many others could have been cut.
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