Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Twister.”
The Movie: “Twister”
Starring: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes
Director: Jan de Bont
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Bill and Jo Harding, advanced storm chasers on the brink of divorce, must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the crosshairs of extremely violent tornadoes.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 57 percent
Brown: We’ve been much too mean to each other on the JOE-DOWN lately.
Two weeks ago, I made it a point to anger Froemming by reviewing “Garden State,” who in Froemming’s eye, surpassed Jimmy Carter as history’s greatest monster.
He responded with another installment from the “Twilight” series.
Folks, we need to stop the vitriol. At least for one week. So it’s time to go back to a JOE-DOWN wheelhouse: Summer action movies.
Enter “Twister”: A movie that people were drawn to because the trailer had a cow flying across the road.
This movie may as well be “White Privilege: The Motion Picture.” When your stakes are as low as beating the “evil” storm chasers, you lead a pretty (REDACTED) charmed life.
Froemming, while I start rounding up all the Pepsi cans in town to help our sensors, give us your thoughts.
Froemming: I saw this movie in 8th grade because we were studying the effects of weather or something. My guess it was for Mr. Larson to nap for two hours. Why did I jump to that conclusion? He once showed us his driver’s license and he had white guy dreadlocks and was really into the band Superchunk. I will let the rest of you fill in the gaps.
Brown: The parts of your childhood that you’ve shared with me are fascinating.
Froemming: And “Twister” was one of those growing up moments for me. For as I watched these crappy CGI tornadoes ravish Oklahoma as God intended, I realized maybe these big-budget thrilling blockbusters could actually, you know, really really suck.
Brown: Wait, did you just make a tornado joke there?
Froemming: I unintentionally entered the suck zone.
The movie that really drove it home this premise for me was when I watched “Independence Day” in the theater. That was when I realized these movies were horrible and I could just walk out of them if I wanted to.
The mid-90s were full of life lessons for me.
Has time *glares at Brown* weathered my anger toward this film? We will see. Brown, as I ponder why getting funding for research from a company is bad, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: Look, when you throw on closed caption and the first thing for this movie pops up is (crickets chirping), you know it’s a bad omen.
We’re thrown into a dark and stormy night in rural Oklahoma in 1969. In this dimly-lit farmhouse, this grim-looking dirt farmer is rounding up his family and I swear, I thought we were about to see this farmer hack up his family like a slasher film.
Instead, he did something worse.
Sensing there’s a bad storm coming, this family starts running for the storm cellar and they NEGLECT TO BRING THE FAMILY DOG WITH THEM.
Sure, the dog ends up running into the storm cellar but the damage is done for me. Someone has to die. And sure enough, the dad of the family dies because he thinks it’s a good idea to hold down the cellar door when an F-5 tornado rolls through.
Froemming: What happened to the dad is what John Lennon once called…
Brown: Notice when the storm rolls through and when the dad gets sucked up, the daughter, mom and dog are perfectly fine and unaffected by the high winds down in the cellar?
The moral: Don’t try to act like a hero. All he was trying to do was impress his family and take away the fact he was a dirt farmer and was turning his family into a Dickensian nightmare or the filthy girl in the abandoned pool from “Con-Air.”
Also, the dad looked like Ernest. I have nothing to add to that; I just wanted to mention it.
Froemming: And then we are whisked away to what the movie calls “present day,” where we find out Oklahoma is going to be hit with what the scientists call a crap-ton of tornadoes. Like 5, 6 or even 10 of them, I lost count. Note to self: Living in an area that floods a lot is still better than Tornado Alley.
And we also me Bill and his bride-to-be Melissa, played by Jami Gertz so you know, here is my obligatory “Seinfeld” reference:
They are traveling to Tornado Alley so Bill can finally get his divorce papers signed by Jo, so he and Melissa can get hitched. I guess he is no longer Mad About You, Jo.
Froemming: I deserve that.
Brown: Yeah, you did.
So I think the best way to describe Jo (Helen Hunt) is what, manic pixie dream storm chaser? Like, I don’t get it. Bill is on the verge of being married to another woman who has her (REDACTED) together and isn’t seemingly living out of a rusted Dodge pickup. Instead of being a storm chaser, he’s becoming a weatherman and probably getting a 401k and health insurance. He wants to move on with his life and not be around Philip Seymour Hoffman when he was middling instead of one of the best character actors around before his untimely death.
But Jo can’t be bothered to put one signature on paper because a storm’s hitting an hour away?
This movie should have been 20 minutes. Bill gets his divorce papers signed and he moves on with his life.
But no, another woman returns to Bill’s life. One that has a hold of him like the mechanical bull had a hold of Bud in “Urban Cowboy.” Her name is Dorothy and there’s four of them.
Froemming: Get it? Because of “The Wizard of Oz?” Hahahaha, I hate this (REDACTED) movie.
Brown: This movie tries as hard as Bill Paxton tried as Bill. I mean, it’s never a good thing when your character has the same name as you, but man, Bill Paxton clearly did not want to be here.
Froemming: So Dorothy is a weather doodad (technical term) that Bill had the idea of, because this movie and Hollywood of the ‘90s refused to let a woman invent anything. See, scientists know nothing about tornadoes and need some sort of instrument to get inside the suckers to find out what makes them work.
*rubs temple, hops on soapbox*
Now, I am pretty sure by the mid-90s scientists did, in fact, understand how tornadoes work. In fact, the technology was around in the 80s as far as I remember to warn us of them and track where they were going. Also, there were volumes of scientific journals on what caused and made these things, and how to predict their movements based on the environment around them and whatnot.
But this movie expects our intelligence to phone it in as much as Paxton’s acting, so here we are.
Brown: I can’t believe you’d question the science of this movie, Froemming.
One of the things I constantly questioned was the soundtrack choices. Early on, it was like this movie was composed by Danny Elfman with how much whimsy was being played over the driving. And there’s a LOT of driving in this movie and very little of it is interesting.
Because Bill apparently wants to see his Dorothy used in a tornado, he’s sucked (see what I did there?) back into the storm chaser life for one day. And he drags his poor fiance into this mess and she is going to be traumatized from this experience, whether it’s by being around violent storms, seeing her fiance still pine over his ex-wife or by the amount of times Philip Seymour Hoffman insists on holding her hand whenever they go somewhere.
Froemming: She also had to endure PSH constantly saying “suck zone,” which might be this woman’s #MeToo moment.
Yes, this movie is less about tornadoes and more about Melissa being put through a living hell on what I thought was going to be her and Bill’s wedding vacation.
Now, it took me more than three years before I would even be in the same room as my ex-wife. In fact, the idea of spending a whole day chasing tornadoes with an ex-wife sounds like pure hell, because the wounds are still raw and frankly, divorced people are sick of one another, hence legally being away from one another.
But Bill is what we call an “asshole” in this work-a-day world, so he, like Mac in “It’s Always Sunny” is playing both women here because either way, he comes out on top.
So Bill drags his fiance into the stupid, stupid world or storm chasing and the apparent competition of it too, as we soon find out Wesley from “The Princess Bride” has given up on Buttercup and is a storm chaser now.
And Bill and his crew hate him because he dared to go out and find corporate funding for his research, instead of doing it for no money with rusty old trucks and an obviously stoned PSH blasting Deep Purple for no reason.
I don’t think Bill understands how science is funded. Sure, sometimes it is done by universities, but it is also funded privately because research takes time AND (REDACTED) MONEY.
Brown: Right? He’s all “Jonas is in it for the money, not the science.”
Froemming: That’s right, His Name is Jonas!
Brown: Bill, that storm-tracking equipment looks expensive. I think you need some sort of cashflow, especially when you have people who are counting on you for their livelihood. Not every storm chaser wants to live like your group and drive around like a bunch of Dead Heads listening to Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow as you try to find your next high. You don’t pay bills on hopes and dreams. You should know that: You were about to leave this life so you could do the EXACT SAME (REDACTED) THING.
Froemming: While this was going on, I was troubled that Melissa was talking to her patients during erratic weather that included deadly tornadoes. I get it, she is a professional, but I don’t think she can multitask like this since, you know, cows flying through the air at her is a little distracting. If she cannot spare a square in public toilets, she should not spare her time during catastrophic weather.
But first things first. Jonas has stolen the idea of Dorothy for himself. Bill, I’m sorry, but if you come up with something like this, patent it, you dolt. You are in the research game. They do that all the time. Imagine if Paul Douglas just came up with EarthWatch Communications and didn’t patent it. His weatherman profession would have been over quick and he would not have an association with “Jurassic Park.”
Brown: Well, who needs all those scientific doodads when you can (apparently) sense tornadoes like Bill?
We hear through “casual” conversation that Bill has, like, a sixth sense about storms and we see it in action when he sees a green sky and comments that something’s coming.
… No (REDACTED). I know next to nothing about tornadoes (science was something I wasn’t particularly strong in) and I know green sky equals bad storm is coming. It’s called living in tornado alley. You don’t need a mind’s eye to figure that out, movie.
So we are back out chasing and all the while, Bill and Jo are just arguing like, well, a married couple. That’s when it dawned on me that Bill is doing this whole divorce song and dance for that good ol’ fashioned angry sex with his ex-wife. That’s the only explanation as to why he’s gone storm chasing with this motley crew again. Like, you know where you can track storms? From the safety of the TV studio you’re supposed to be working at, Bill!
Froemming: Melissa did not deserve any of this. Bill is a toxic person. Jo is a toxic person. They deserve one another.
So poor, poor Melissa is strung along like a third wheel, watching as these two go off together while she is usually stuck with PSH, who looks (and probably smells) fresh from a Phish concert.
And they chase a tornado all right. It comes along while they are in a diner and Jo is chewing gum and drinking coffee, which is a disgusting combination if you ask me. And what happens? Not much besides Bill crashing Jo’s truck into an old, wood-rotted bridge that somehow protects them from the violent winds of a tornado.
These storm chasers are all future Darwin Award winners.
Adding insult to injury his ex-wife’s vehicle, the tornado picks it up and smashes it to the ground. A better metaphor for their toxic relationship could not be done.
Brown: Even worse (in their twisted storm chasin’ world), Dorothy I is destroyed in the aftermath. You mean to tell me Christmas ornaments don’t go into a tornado as seamlessly as you hoped?!
After a close call with death, what’s the group to do? Go after another tornado! This time, it’s TWO tornadoes, because we need to ratchet up the danger even more. And the sensors STILL don’t pick up and Bill and Jo STILL survive this, because they’re super heroes on par with The Avengers and the cast of the “Fast and the Furious” movies.
I have to ask: The National Severe Storms Laboratory knows a strong cell of storms with this much impact was coming. A perfect storm, if you will. Was there ever a state of emergency called in the state of Oklahoma? Were people evacuated? I understand the logistics of that being difficult in that sparse a state but in 1996, a warning could have been widespread.
Whatever. There’s more twisters to follow! Screw everything else! Screw Melissa’s well being! Screw the fact your new pickup truck only has liability insurance!
Speaking of Melissa, we find out she’s a sex therapist. So between making her seem like a drag and the conversation they have about Bill having issues, this movie has a really weird stigma against mental health that I found uncomfortable.
Froemming: Michael Crichton apparently understands therapy as much as he does dinosaur DNA.
Brown: I loved “Billy and the Cloneasaurus!”
Froemming: But before we go chasing more tornadoes, let’s take a pitstop at Jo’s aunt’s place for food, because nothing makes things uncomfortable like being forced to sit in your fiancee’s ex’s family’s place for dinner, surrounded by doofus storm chasers and a pot-fueled PSH.
I felt so, so bad for Melissa here. Even knowing she might still be a vampire from “The Lost Boys.”
Now Brown, I know you have some strong feelings with the way the aunt here cooks her meals.
Brown: Just one major one.
So when these disgusting hippie storm chasers just crash this poor woman’s house, she’s forced to cook them food. She ends up going with steak and eggs, which is a favorite of myself and pretty much anyone with a carnivore pallet.
However, she cooks the eggs in a cast iron skillet?! You know what I don’t like with my eggs, Aunt Meg? A bunch of crusty (REDACTED) that was stuck to the pan because you couldn’t be bothered to use a stick-free skillet. Do you enjoy doing dishes THAT much? That’s such a pain in the ass for yourself later.
Now Froemming, did you have more issue with her breakfast cooking or her giant-ass wind chimes? There’s no way her neighbors haven’t gone to the city council to try and get those things torn down because wind chimes are annoying.
Froemming: Well, not her cooking, because the food looked great.
Brown: The steak looked overcooked. I know that’s not a problem for you, Froemming, because like Donald Trump, you enjoy your steak well done with ketchup.
Froemming: I dunno, I wasn’t paying close attention to how it was cooked because this is a movie, not a Food Network show. And how people cook their food is none of your business, Comrade Brown.
I was more baffled why everyone was pestering her about why she had so much beef, like she is Ron Swanson hiding bacon all over his office like there is a world wide shortage.
As to the city council question, that’s easy. She filibustered any decision against her like this:
Brown: It was around this time as well that I realized one of the storm chasers is Cameron from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” So now we know that after his dad likely disowned him for destroying the Porsche, Cameron ended up drifting around the midwest and ended up being a storm chaser/Dead Head.
Forget “Joker,” I want THAT origin story, Todd Phillips.
Breakfast is cut short when ANOTHER storm system is reported. Before the crew rushes out, Aunt Meg gives Jo some encouragement to win back Bill because she wants Bill back in the family as much as Jo? Stay out of their business, woman.
While rushing to the storm system, the group cuts through a cornfield and hops on the highway right as Jonas’s crew is driving by and they almost cause a giant accident. And Bill, Jo and co. have the audacity to treat Jonas like he’s the bad guy here? You jokers almost killed everyone courtesy of reckless driving.
Froemming: Also, Jonas’ team seems more prepared and has more safety precautions than a rusty bunch of trucks and an R2DN replica filled with Christmas bulbs. But hey, they are the bad guys for getting proper funding for their research.
Brown: I’m glad scientists get criticized the same way musicians do for being “sell outs.” Jo and Bill are the Nirvana to Jonah’s Poison.
Froemming: And like Nirvana, Bill and Jo’s career life expectancy is pretty damn low.
And alas, this attempt to use Dorothy 2 fails, like everything Bill touches in life. Bill is like George W. Bush: Everything he touches is doomed.
And in the middle of all this, Bill tells Jo he loves her, while Melissa hears this over the CB radio or whatever.
Brown: World’s strongest CB ever, man.
Froemming: I guess.
And after this, Melissa finally gives up on Bill, which thank goodness she really dodged a bullet here. She breaks up with him and says she isn’t even upset about it. I would be very upset if the person I was about to marry professed their love to their ex that I heard over a CB radio. Maybe she is just relieved that she will not have a future at Giley’s, drinking Buds and being stuck in a toxic relationship with a man who loves tornadoes as much as Bud loved mechanical bulls.
Oh, this happens after they are at a hotel, where “The Shining” is playing at a drive-in or something. A tornado hits, because what the hell, why not add another (REDACTED) one to this.
And I laughed out loud at the stupidity of the unpredictable destruction of the tornado along side the very predictable destruction of Jack Torrence losing his mind because he is a dry drunk stuck in a haunted hotel with his family with no way to leave. I feel like the director was trying to make a point here, but never actually saw/understood the Kubrick classic.
Brown: This is a staple of bad movies where you have a clip of another movie that makes the audience think, “Man, I could be watching a better movie right now.”
Here’s where I want to let you know, Froemming, that this movie made $494 million.
“Twister” nearly made a half-billion (with a B) dollars!
Brown: This fact broke my brain. I’ve gone full Bateman here.
After an F4 rolls through the place, it’s here where we see Jo’s reason for being a storm chaser. She was the little girl at the start of the movie and she, more or less, thinks that the tornado, what, actively sought to make her and her mom widows?
I mean, you could read this entire monologue in Bill’s face when Jo’s acting like nature is Jason Vorhees.
This movie is dangerously stupid.
Froemming: Yup, and we see the stupidity of our heroes when they find out a tornado is heading toward the aunt’s house and they all jump in their trucks and race toward it. They find the house and Bill and Jo just go in.
This house has been ravaged by the forces of Mother Nature. You two dingdongs are storm chasers, not EMTs/firefighters/police trained to save people from situations like this. But because they are moronic children of the ‘60s, they just go ahead and rummage through this death trap of a building to find the aunt.
Brown: Let’s be honest: They were looting houses around the neighborhood because they’re poor hippies.
Froemming: They find the aunt all right, pinned under what I think was her bed frame. Now, they just hop into the basement, pull it off and start moving her around.
This is what the experts call (REDACTED) DANGEROUS. What if she hurt her spine, or was impaled by something? You idiots have no idea what the (REDACTED) you are doing, and it shows. Hell, a TV almost falls on Bill’s head and kills him. It should have. That would have been a great ending to this. But no, they continue on despite all these vicious acts of God demanding they should not be doing any of this.
Brown: Bill’s one redeeming quality: He goes back for Aunt Meg’s dog. Also, the dog’s name is Mose, which is arguably my favorite non-regular character from “The Office.”
Now, there’s a report of an F5 tornado, which PSH refers to as “God’s Finger” back at breakfast.
Froemming: I think he was talking about his stash.
Brown: So they want to find this tornado and track it so stuff like Aunt Meg and Jo’s dad doesn’t happen to others.
Look, I know the idea is to help speed up response time but Jo comes off like she’s literally trying to stop tornadoes in their tracks. I imagine she becomes a member of the Trump administration and suggests the idea to put a nuke into the middle of a hurricane.
Froemming: Good thing those wind chimes gave Jo and idea on how to make Dorothy 3 work, by linking them together? I dunno, I think that was it. I was so upset by this movie I couldn’t focus on their dumbass ideas anymore.
Brown: This small Oklahoma town sure loves its Pepsi because the group rounds up all the pop cans they can and they are ALL Pepsi.
I don’t know how to explain how this works. I basically think the idea is like maple tree seeds with the helicopter thing?
This movie is dumb, did I mention that?
Froemming: Now this is where the movie, somehow, gets even more dumb. Heading toward the tornado, Jonas and his guy ignore Bill’s warnings and get impaled with a tower of some sort. And then their truck gets eaten up by the tornado, giving us the message: Don’t sell out.
Then our dummies realize they need to drive straight into the thing in order to get their watchamacallit (technical term) to work.
*rubs temple* These people. They, they are not my kind of people.
Brown: The way they hunt this F5 is the same way Uncle Jimbo and Ned hunt animals in “South Park”: By yelling “It’s coming right for us!”
And success! Dorothy 4 is launched and the sensors get into the tornado to show data that… no one in the audience that didn’t go to CalTech could understand.
But their celebration is cut short because, you know, a mile-wide tornado is barrelling towards Bill and Jo.
And they outrun a tornado on foot. And somehow end up in a barn that they leave because it is chock-full of sharp farm equipment. AND after that, they end up running to ANOTHER shed.
Considering this tornado has winds of 300 MPH and have destroyed and sucked up everything in its path, there is no conceivable way Bill and Jo are alive up to this moment. At some point, a corn stalk is probably piercing their chest like a javelin.
Here’s a visual aide to show how next-level dead Bill and Jo should be.
AND IT GETS DUMBER FROM HERE.
Froemming: Oh yeah, because you know what saves you from 300 mph gusts of wind that pick up four-ton vehicles like I pick up a tissue?
Strapping yourself to old, rusty pipes with your belt.
Seriously, strapped to rusty pipes with cheap belts saves them from being sucked up into the wind-fueled void like Daniel Plainview sucks up your milkshake!
Brown: There’s a lot of sucking in this movie. I’m not apologizing for that.
Brown: So through the power of bull(REDACTED), Bill and Jo survive. Their marriage is (apparently) saved, and I’ll venture to say that after riding out that tornado that Jo is pregnant with Bill’s child. Then their storm tracking buddies come and celebrate the launch of Dorothy and the credits roll.
So these people are assholes because they’re dancing and celebrating on the destroyed remains of someone’s family farm! How self-serving are these garbage people? There are people who just had their lives destroyed and you’re literally dancing on their shattered lives!
Bill Paxton, you of all people know how these people are feeling. It’s like you were in “Aliens!”
Ugggg… let’s take a flying metal tower to the face of this review and go to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Not a chance.
Froemming: Nope. This movie was just as bad as the first time I saw it.