Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) / Comedy-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, innuendo, and language
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowski, Jim Norton
Cameo: John Carpenter
Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: Robert Collector, Dana Olsen, William Goldman (based on the book by H.F. Saint)
Chevy Chase (Christmas Vacation, Funny Farm) stars as slacker businessman Nick Halloway, a man so bored with life and his career that he spends most of his time trying to get away from his responsibilities. One night while trying to sleep off a hangover in a mysterious office building, Nick is inundated by a strange blast emanating from a scientific experiment gone haywire, rendering his entire body and clothing invisible to the eye -- people can literally see right through him. A rogue faction of government agents, led by David Jenkins (Neill, The Hunt for Red October), seize upon the opportunity to get what could be the best secret weapon in espionage yet, an invisible agent, if only they can capture Nick. Nick isn't so keen on the idea of being poked and prodded by their experiments and hoofs it on the run, with only the help of the beauty he has just met, Alice Monroe (Hannah, Splash), as his means to keep his sanity, identity and ability to mingle among the visible.
A bit of an oddity in that Memoirs of an Invisible Man is actually a serious thriller half the time, while a comedy for about a quarter of the rest and a romance in the remainder, this is one of those films that tries to find too many audiences to cater to and ends up missing all of them. That's not to say it is a horrible film on the whole, but rather, not strong enough in any particular genre to recommend to any specific group, save for Chevy Chase fanatics. Director John Carpenter (They Live, Big Trouble in Little China) continues his consistency in his delivery (by being inconsistent), as Memoirs struggles from shifts in tone and substance that would be a sure tip-off that studio heads thought there should be more comedy and romance in the middle of their serious film about a man who discovers he wants to be seen by the world he's been trying to lose himself from for years.
Memoirs of an Invisible Man, for all of its ambitions, only truly succeeds as a special effects showcase. Seeing such things as a piece of gum chewed in mid air is interesting to watch just from a visual perspective, these little tidbits alone make for some entertainment for audiences, if only just to wonder how they were able to accomplish such feats.
The rest is just hit and miss, and though Chase can be funny when he needs to be, the script doesn't call him to be very often. The romance between Chase and Hannah also isn't explored with any depth, and it doesn't help that neither actor is engaging enough from a romance standpoint to buy into the notion that they care enough about each other to risk life and limb to save one another from mortal peril. To some extent, it is refreshing to see Chase take on a more faceted role, but on the other hand, it doesn't really work well enough to be curious to see more of his dramatic chops. Nevertheless, the film as a whole is certainly better than most endeavors he has made since, so it's a shame his solitary attempt at branching out proved to be less than successful.
Not funny enough to be a comedy, not serious enough to be a drama, not suspenseful enough to be a thriller, not plausible enough to be a sci-fi film, and not charismatic enough to be a romance, Memoirs of an Invisible Man ironically is the antithesis of the main character itself -- it can be seen, but never truly felt.
©2008 Vince Leo