This week’s Saturday Afternoon Sweetness pick is inspired by my recent tropical vacation. When you’ve hit that wall where you need to just leave the world behind and get some you time, a vacation or a movie can do that for you. In the case of this week’s pick, the movie is about a type of vacation.
A last vacation before you die. Oh yeah, and it’s a comedy. Of course. I mean, what about that sentence doesn’t make you belly laugh? This week’s sweetness pick is none other than ‘Joe Versus the Volcano.’
First and foremost, this movie’s claim to fame is the fact that it’s the first of three films that pair Tom Hanks with Meg Ryan. I’m not sure if it’s proud that it laid the groundwork for ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or ‘You Got Mail’ but never the less, it has that distinction. Hanks plays Joe, a guy who is so downtrodden at work that he just kind of lumbers through his existence. One day, during a visit to a doctor, he finds that he has been diagnosed with a brain cloud and will die. What makes this a great Saturday afternoon movie is that awesome, wacky chain of events that draw a straight line from being diagnosed with a brain cloud to being offered up as a sacrifice to a volcano so a tycoon can mine on an island. Logic like this only happens in movies, not films. The joy of this movie is that great elation that comes with Joe’s “well, if I’m on my way out, I might as well seize the day” attitude. He tells off his boss, quits his job, buys all sorts of fun things on borrowed credit cards, meets a woman, goes to an island and agrees to be the human sacrifice to a volcano that is ready to erupt. Why not? You’re going to die anyways, right? Might as well go in style.
‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ isn’t a great movie (hence its perfect fit in this column), but it’s one of those fun distractions. And it tells a story that needs to be told. I mean, how often do you hear of people jumping into volcanoes only to have them erupt with such timing that instead of dying a fiery, molten-y death of burning flesh they just kind of knock you out of its mouth and into the sea, where you’re alive, well and suddenly learn that the brain cloud you had was all an elaborate hoax by a doctor who really needs to get a malpractice suit brought against him? Not often enough, I tell you. ‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ is that romantic comedy that everyone can get into. And it’s a movie that marks a time when Tom Hanks was fun to watch, instead of now where he’s in everything and you just kind of get tired of him being around like that guy at your party who won’t leave so you can go to bed. This is the pre-that Tom Hanks. Tomorrow, when it’s cold and rainy all day, pop in ‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ and bask in the warmth of