Jumpin' Jack Flash (1986) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA rated: R for some violence and language
Length: 100 min.

Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Carol Kane, Stephen Collins, Peter Michael Goetz, John Wood, James Belushi, Jon Lovitz, Annie Potts, Roscoe Lee Browne, Sarah Botsford, Phil Hartman
Small role: Jeroen Krabbe, Jonathan Pryce, Tracey Ullman, Michael McKean, Garry Marshall
Director: Penny Marshall
Screenplay: David Franzoni, Charles Shyer, Nancy Myers, Chris Thompson
Review published December 21, 2012

Jumpin Jack Flash 1986Whoopi Goldberg (The Player, The Lion King) stars as Terry Dolittle, a international accounts computer operator working behind the scenes for a major New York City bank. Terry gets into a bit of trouble with her boss by getting too chummy with the bank patrons during their electronic transactions, and just when she's about to keep her correspondence all-business, she is contacted after hours by a mysterious man calling himself 'Jumping Jack Flash'. Jack claims to be a British secret agent who is stuck behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, and she's his only hope to make it out. Terry, a woman who regularly partakes of the classic flicks, finds herself becoming part of the action as she must follow Jack's implicit orders without getting caught, or worse, by the baddies out to snuff out anyone with knowledge of their doings.

Not exactly the "gas" that the Rolling Stones song would have you believe, Jumpin' Jack Flash is a thinly held together movie that fails despite an appealing cast, a quality director in Penny Marshall (Big, A League of Their Own) - her debut feature film, and some well shot footage in and around New York City. When a film this flimsy is credited to no less than four different screenwriters, including the normally dependable team of Charles Shyer and Nancy Myers (I Love Trouble, Parent Trap) - hiding their shame under the pseudonym of J.W. Melville and Patricia Irving - you know you're probably in for quite a mess in the plotting department. Problems ran rampant throughout this production, which saw a directorial change and persistent rewrites.

Whoopi does the best she can in a comedic role that requires her to do a bit of her infamous characterizations in order to get in and out of various places that keep the plot moving. While her ability to do voices and impressions are solid, Whoopi isn't exactly the most gifted comedian in terms of broad slapstick, of which the film has more than its share, which she handles mostly by screaming at the top of her lungs. Her amiability lifts the humor quotient above what's written on the page, but not quite enough to cover over the weaknesses in the story, which are, on one end, farfetched, and on the other, not striving for much beyond just creating various situations for her character to get in and out of.

If you like Goldberg, you'll likely get more mileage out of the film than most. An amiable time-waster at best.
Qwipster's rating:

©2012 Vince Leo