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Miss Terry Doolittle works for a bank,
Where her conversations are casually frank.
A friendly, disheveled, productive commuter,
She spends her days typing into a computer.
Then one day, her life takes a turn unforeseen
When “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” says hello on her screen.
At first, she assumes it’s a practical joke,
Some wisecracking trickster who wants to provoke,
But soon she discovers this analog stranger
Is some British spy trapped in Europe in danger!
He gives her instructions which don’t make much sense
And only cause threats on her life to commence.
The contacts he gives her just end up deceased
Or don’t seem to care for poor Jack in the least,
And every attempt to find Jack a way out
One Jeremy Talbot is eager to rout.
With help from the wife of another lost spy,
She learns that the KGB is the bad guy.
She grows close to Jack in their shared conversation;
A date with this spy is her one expectation.
When she has success in releasing her chap,
She’s captured by foes and is told it’s a trap.
With desperate shenanigans, she gets away
And tries to warn Jack of sly Talbot’s foul play.
She narrowly makes it with aid from a spy,
Who helps bring Jack home and, you know, not die.
Though Terry’s expecting their subsequent date,
Jack doesn’t show up, leaving Terry to wait,
But, at Terry’s office, Jack finally shows,
Fulfilling his promise, and off the pair goes.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash was only Whoopi Goldberg’s third film, and, immediately following her star turn in The Color Purple, it was a return to her comedic roots. Other actors lend their talents as well, from respected thespians to popular comedians, including Stephen Collins, John Wood (WarGames), Jim Belushi, Carol Kane, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, and Jonathan Pryce as Jack, who is only heard throughout most of the film. The computer element of the plot may date it, like Cloak and Dagger or Tron, but Terry’s typed conversations with Jack are well-edited, as if they’re talking to each other over the phone.

The script and direction supposedly went through a lot of issues before the film was completed, but the final result is a comedic gem, despite receiving several negative reviews upon its release. Whoopi Goldberg is just plain cute as Terry Doolittle, and her reactions, whether to good-natured workplace banter or to threats against her life, are hilarious. As typical of spy films, there are the usual creepy or threatening scenes but nothing really violent, and the comedic touches throughout strike just the right balance between tension and humor, leaning more toward the latter. My VC and I love the part where Terry tries to decipher the lyrics to the Rolling Stones’ song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and the phone booth scene and Terry’s subsequent drugged rant is hilarious, one of those great laugh-a-minute sequences.

Unfortunately, as with Trading Places, Jumpin’ Jack Flash is heavy on the language with Whoopi Goldberg especially having a foul mouth, which various characters comment on. Considering that the violence is minimal, it’s a shame that this alone warranted an R rating. As with other movies on my list, catch a cut version on TV some time. You’ll be glad you did.

Best line: (a drugged Terry, when stopped by a spa security guard named Earl) “You see this face, Earl. This is the face of a woman on the edge.”
(Earl) “I know, my wife’s got the same face.”
(Terry) “Now, you gotta decide, Earl. Do you wanna work here, or do you wanna live?”
(Earl, intimidated) “I quit. I quit.”


Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 8
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: 7
Originality: 8
Watchability: 8
Other (language): -10
TOTAL: 36 out of 60

Next: #252 – Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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