When there's trouble…
Never in all my years have I known so little about a movie as I do with Ryder, P.I.. Where did it come from? Apparently, the year 1986. That's the extent of my knowledge on Ryder, P.I.. It stars "over 60 nationally known, New York based comedians." Its leads include a guy named Dave Hawthorne, whose only other film credit was a bartender in James L. Brooks' As Good As It Gets, and Bob Nelson, a goofball comedian who was featured in they hysterically underrated Brain Donors. Also featured in Ryder, P.I. is everyone's favorite "king of all media," Howard Stern. And for those of you who are a bit slow, that was sarcasm. FOCUSFilm Entertainment comes out shooting blanks with their DVD release of Ryder, P.I..
Facts of the Case
After watching less than ten minutes of Ryder, P.I., one easily gathers that the writers were not burning to tell a highly original story. Instead, they penned this sucker for the sole purpose of throwing as many jokes and gags at the screen as possible. So, instead of me trying to explain the ludicrous plot to you, I'm just going to copy down what the package says (which sums it up very nicely):
"Sky Ryder (David Hawthorne) and his inept sidekick Eppie (Bob Nelson), have been on a case for a year. But there's one problem: they've been trailing the wrong woman. Their time's not wasted, however, as they save a damsel in distress (Francis Raines) who's been attacked by three nasty bikers. Problem number two: the bikers turn out to be FBI agents.
Thrown together by fate, Ryder and the woman develop an impromptu romance, though danger has hardly ended. What follows is a bizarre romp that leaves everyone questioning the method to Ryder's madness!"
Wacky hijinks aplenty! That should have been the tag line for Ryder, P.I.. From the first scene I could see this was going to a very, VERY low budget picture. When an opening scene takes place "somewhere in South America" yet looks conspicuously looks like a bike trail in Pasadena, California…well, you know the cost of the film was around that of a box of donuts. Then again, that might have been the joke. If so, the producers were aiming fairly low.
I was, however, mildly amused by Ryder, P.I.. Yes, many of the jokes are lame and very, very out of date. The film includes so many PG-rated puns and gags that it sometimes puts "Full House" to shame. When one character sneezes on a piece of toast, another (not noticing the sneeze) asks if it's butter. "It'snot." Get it? It's NOT/it's SNOT? If you didn't find that gag funny, you're going to have a hard time sitting through the rest of Ryder, P.I..
The best thing about this movie is Bob Nelson as Ryder's inept partner Eppie. Nelson has the task of playing the police force idiot. Nelson has this role down to a science. While sitting in a car on a stakeout the two men eat burgers. Eppie wonders what the terrible tasting blue soda is that Ryde rjust bought. "That's not soda," says Ryder, "that's window cleaner." Now, this isn't a very funny joke in and of itself, though Nelson makes it much funnier by quipping, "Well, it still tastes bad." His dim-bulb character is a highlight of this movie.
The plot is just a big gaping hole, only active so that nutty characters can trample on and off screen like a heard of deranged cattle. Some of them are funny, some of them aren't. For a film including over "60 nationally known comedians," I personally recognized only two of them.
The biggest draw for most people will be the inclusion of Howard Stern as Ben Wah, a sarcastically obnoxious news anchor. If you think that Stern's radio persona is funny, then you'll most likely get a kick out of his Ben Wah character. Certainly he was in serious need of some acting lessons back in 1986. Then again, if you saw him in all two hours Private Parts you've seen him do the same thing he does in all ten minutes Ryder, P.I.. Whoop-dee-do.
Ryder, P.I. is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The overall image is only fair, featuring lots of softness and grain. Since this was filmed on a very limited budget in 1986, this comes as no surprise. Though there are many flaws in the picture, it's not as bad as other low budget films I've seen (though it comes close). For what you're getting, believe me, you'll live fine with the image quality.
I couldn't find the audio options for Ryder, P.I. anywhere, so I am guessing that this DVD is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. The track includes some hiss and distortion, though like the image quality I wasn't very shocked by this revelation. Most of the dialogue was fine, with the '80s music (sensually wailing sax) prominently featured. No subtitles are included.
Ryder, P.I. includes a theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen. The trailer is actually pretty funny, spoofing the whole "interviewing people as they come out of the theater" idea. Also included is over fifteen minutes of extra footage featuring Howard Stern. This extra footage is about the same as what we see in Ryder, P.I., only longer and a bit more obnoxious. Stern fans rejoice!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Ryder, P.I. is not brain surgery. In fact, it's not much of anything. There are a few chuckles along the way, though ultimately it's a pretty unforgettable flick. Many of the actors look like they were part of the writers drinking club and the producer green lit their parts in the film. You can certainly do a lot worse than Ryder, P.I.. You can also do a lot better.
Throw this in the same pile with such early '80s comedies like Chevy Chase's The Groove Tube and Bill Murray's Loose Shoes.
For around fifteen bucks this isn't a terrible buy if you really find this movie funny. However, is there anyone out there who can admit that with a straight face? I can't say that I felt like an hour and a half of my life was wasted, though it certainly wasn't very well spent. The transfer leaves much to be desired, and the supplements are nothing to shout about. And if I never see Howard Stern in another feature film it will be too soon.
Now that I think about it, Ryder, P.I. is really like a poor man's Naked Gun. A really, really poor man…
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