Terry Dolittle (WHOOPI GOLDBERG) works in Manhattan's First National bank. She chit-chats with clients all over the world. By way of meeting her co-workers (CAROL KANE, JON LOVITZ, PHIL HARTMAN), we learn that her computer terminal sometimes picks up Russian television. She is not the finest employee in the world, she is often in trouble for misuse of the transponder. Her boss James Page (PETER MICHAEL GOETZ) doesn't believe her stories about her unfortunate mother:-
'Again? Didn't she fall off a crosstown bus last week? I'd like to be her beneficiary!'
The magic begins as Terry picks up another signal from Russia, a man calling himself Jumpin' Jack Flash (JONATHAN PRYCE) taps into her computer. He asks Terry to figure out his secret password key on the basis of the clue 'sing with me and find the key'.
After the classic sequence whereby she quite brilliantly finds the correct code-key, her interaction with Jack lands her in the middle of an International Espionage Plot. Jumpin' Jack Flash turns out to be a British agent who is trapped in Eastern Europe and needs an exit contact to get home.
Agreeing to help Jack, she retrieves a frying pan from Jack's apartment which contains the names of several spy contacts. Her first point of call is Mark Van Meter (JEROEN KRABBÉ). He ends up dead.
Not even the watchful eye of her co-worker Marty (STEPHEN COLLINS) can help. Marty tries his best to look after her, dragging her from her hilarious conflict with the local Police Chief:-
'If you stop pickin' your teeth you could hear what I was trying to say' (Terry to the Chief of Police)
Embroiled in her missions for Jack, Terry is given a truth serum, crashes a Ball dressed like Tina Turner, nearly falls off the roof of the British Consulate, heavily insults 'polyester head' (her boss at the bank), breaks into Elizabeth Arden, is kidnapped, falls in love and is dragged in a runaway phone booth.
'Im a little black woman in a big silver box, the top of it says phone' (Terry on her phonebox tour of Manhattan)
Terry is in constant danger and the Consulate are refusing to help Jack escape. Jeremy Talbot (JOHN WOOD) is a slimy Consulate Official. These guys are the source behind Jack's false exit contact and he will be killed if he tries to escape this way!
'Burghardt, Rezo Inn, 5pm, Ring a bell?'
Terry has to get to her terminal and warn Jack before he leaves, but there's a lot of people desperate to stop her. Will she be able to send the message? Will she ever get that promotion?.. Or that perfect guy?
Although often criticised that the nature of Goldberg's performance is not to play many scenes where she interacts with other actors, I disagree. Not only are there plenty of terrific scenes where Goldberg talks to Agents, talks to her Co-Workers, talks to Cops etc... but the very purpose of the scene in which Terry visits Jack's apartment in New York is not only to retrieve the frying pan, but also to allow her to hear Jack's voice on his answering machine. This is crucial! From this moment on, Jacks voice caresses her ears whenever his words appear on the screen and thus we are engaged not in a one-dimensional dialogue which Goldberg must repeat out loud for our benefit, but in a living conversation which is highlighted by the development of their personal relationship as the film progresses. This sound design is paramount in my mind to the success of the film. A similar device is used in Wargames (1983) whereby Matthew Broderick inexplicably uses a voice box simulator on his computer to give it a three dimensional presence for the audience.
Jumpin' Jack Flash is a standout piece of 80's comedy, heavy on great lines and plenty of laughs. It's a little convoluted, but that's what makes it fast and furious. Whoopi is hilarious, as usual.
I still occassionally mutter Page's line which can be heard several times in the film:-
"Fetch Larry the heavy-set-guard, fetch Larry the heavy-set-guard!"
It is also rich with British stereotypes who all watch re-reuns of The Benny Hill Show! Additional performances from the likes of James Belushi as the KGB chameleon are priceless:-
'Go ahead, it's your dime' (as the Repairman)
Agreed, there are alot of cliched spy techniques in the film, but the way in which Marshall presents them to us is pure class. As with her other gem 'Big', Marshall views the world with excited and adventurous eyes and I for one always get lost in her movies. The script is deftly handled by Goldberg and we are introduced to the backstory of how Jack is able to contact Terry via the Russian Satelite without too much nasty exposition. Although, I must admit to never quite agreeing with the coherence of the scene where the photograph of Terry in Jack's Apartment is pinned to the back of the same apartment door?? What's the point of that?
One of those rare gems that makes you want an adventure to happen to you. A great 80's computer based film, after this you'll feel the possibility of magic at your PC.
>> End Trans.Notice any mistakes? Review
Fantastic romantic comedy with great script and performance by Goldberg.
Weaknesses? Hmmm... Let me think about that...Our rating:
9 out of 10Review Written by Simon Barber: Contact | More Reviews by Simon Barber