US / 90 minutes / color with some bw / Edgewood, TCF Dir: Amy Heckerling Pr: Michael Hertzberg Scr: Norman Steinberg, Bernie Kukoff, Harry Colomby, Jeff Harris Cine: David M. Walsh Cast: Michael Keaton, Joe Piscopo, Marilu Henner, Maureen Stapleton, Peter Boyle, Griffin Dunne, Glynnis O’Connor, Dom DeLuise, Richard Dimitri, Danny DeVito, Carl A. Gottlieb, Ron Carey, Ray Walston, Dick Butkus, Byron Thames, Alan Hale Jr., Scott Thomson, Sudie Bond, Mark Jantzen, Gary Watkins, Mike Bacarella, Hank Garrett, Leonard Termo, Troy W. Slaten, Georg Olden, Cynthia Szigeti, Edward C. Short, Trisha Long, Hal Riddle, James Coco.
Michael Keaton as Johnny.
It’s 1910 in NYC, and the dispatch with which newspaper boy Johnny Kelly (Thames) sees off bully Danny Vermin (Olden) impresses passing mobster Jocko Dundee (Boyle). Jocko eventually hires the lad, who grows up to be the dashing Johnny Dangerously (Keaton), the gangster whom everyone loves because, like Jocko, he’s generous to a fault and makes sure no one ever gets hurt. Much.
Marilu Henner as Lil.
The only people in the old neighborhood who don’t know Johnny Dangerously is really Johnny Kelly are Johnny’s mom (Stapleton) and kid brother Tommy (Slaten). Somehow they retain this ignorance until Tommy, too, has grown up (Dunne) to become first of all an assistant to the corrupt DA Burr (DeVito) and then, when Burr dies in unusual circumstances, a crusading DA in his own right. His greatest desire is to crush the Jocko Dundee gang and especially Johnny Dangerously . . .
Peter Boyle as Jocko.
We’re told all this in a series of flashbacks from 1935 as Johnny, now owner of Kelly’s Pet Store, warns a young would-be shoplifter of the Dead End Kids sort (I think the actor’s Jantzen) of the downsides of a life of crime.
Marilu Henner is Lil Sheridan, the showgirl who steals Johnny’s heart. Joe Piscopo is the grown-up Danny Vermin, whom Jocko recruits to the gang but whose dearest wish is to see Johnny and Tommy dead. Glynnis O’Connor is Sally, Tommy’s true love. Richard Dimitri is Jocko’s arch-rival, nightclub owner Roman Troy Moronie. Dom DeLuise, though given prominent billing, is barely in the movie: onscreen for a matter of seconds, he plays the Pope.
Griffin Dunne as Tommy.
Johnny Dangerously parodies, heavy-handedly, the gangster-movie genre, especially the classics produced mainly by Warner Bros; there’s some parody also of the prison-movie genre. It relies on the same sort of formula as Airplane! (1980), The Naked Gun (1988) and the Scary Movie movies—over-the-top humor with so many verbal and visual gags that, even if most of them misfire, they’ll score enough hits that the average audience member will, with luck, remember having had at least a few chuckles. There’s even an animated short about testicles introduced for no logical reason. (The short, I mean. Not the testicles.)
The shoplifting kid (unidentified actor).
The movie sort of succeeds in its aim, though one can’t help wishing that its cast and budget had been put to better use. It’s no real wonder that director Amy Heckerling is better recognized for other items in her filmography.
Betty Boop explains testicles.