“Joe versus the Volcano”

In my first blog about a movie, I gave fair warning I am fond of romantic comedies.  Though Yahoo! Movies also lists “Joe versus the Volcano” as an action/adventure and fantasy/sci fi, it is primarily a romantic comedy.  While at times it is very silly, it is NOT a mindless romantic comedy.  It’s a movie that makes you laugh, and then sticks in your mind and makes you think.

This movie came out in 1990, and was writer John Patrick Shanley’s directorial debut.  It was also the first time Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were paired in a movie.  While they went on to become serious actors, this was back when they were being given lighter parts.  Thing is, their talent and ability shines through these parts, especially with Tom Hanks.  joe-vs.jpgHank’s character, Joe, is in a soul-sucking job, and he feels sick all the time.  Told he has just months to live (the doctor is played by Robert Stack), he quits his job.  Along comes a very rich man (Lloyd Bridges) who hires Joe to travel to the South Pacific and jump into a volcano.  As he travels, Joe does some soul-searching, and he falls in love.  When the time comes, he and Patricia (Meg Ryan) jump into the volcano, hoping for a miracle.

Meg Ryan plays three parts: DeeDee, the secretary (whom Ryan says she patterned after one of her dogs), Angelica (a “flibberty-jibbit”), and Patricia.  At one point Angelica asks Joe if he’s ever thought of killing himself (she doesn’t know his mission).  Joe is startled, and challenges her with one of my favorite movie lines: “If you have a choice between killing yourself and doing something you’re scared of doing, why not take the leap, and do the thing you’re scared of doing?”    Later, Ryan as Patricia says my other favorite line from this movie: “… almost the whole world is asleep — everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to . . . only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant, total amazement.” 

Both lines challenge us to really LIVE our lives.  To do that thing we are scared of doing.  Not to plug away day after mindless day, doing the things we are supposed to do just because we are supposed to do them.  Not to be so afraid of the future that we trade our souls for safety.  As I began writing this blog, I realized the first movie I wrote about, “Stranger Than Fiction,” deals with this same theme.  I can’t say I’ve always followed this advice, but I’m getting braver.  A friend once shared this with me, though I have no idea who wrote it originally:  “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave, with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally warn out, and screaming, ‘Woo-Hoo, what a ride!'”  I like that idea.      🙂

The movie is rated PG, and includes a great turn by Abe Vigoda as the island chief.  I give it a 4.2.


About judithornot

Lives in semi-rural Northern California, happily married, retired counselor, night person, knits, plays WoW.
This entry was posted in DVDs, Mental Health, Movies, spirituality, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Joe versus the Volcano”

  1. Coppermoon says:

    I loved this movie! I especially remember everyone walking into work and trampling the little flower so valiantly trying to grow up thru the crack in the pavement. The feeling of quiet desperation in that dark, gloomy workplace.

    I tend to cling to my rut but movies like this give us a kick in the butt, don’t they? Good thing.


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