With John Carpenter directing, William Goldman amongst the writers and Industrial Light and Magic on effects, this pricey vehicle for Chevy Chase didn’t find much love back in 1992; it’s a good example of a film that didn’t seem to mean much to the makers, audiences or critics. Resurfacing on Amazon Prime, it’s the kind of middling work that defies serious criticism, yet will probably get the largest audience it’s ever had via streaming.
Chase plays Nick Halloway, an arrogant, womanising stock-broker in San Francisco, a man whose best friend is his gentleman’s club. Hangover after a drunken night, he attends a meeting at Magnascopic Laboratories, where a technician accidentally spills coffee on one of his box-box computers. Any scientist will tell you, this kind of accident inevitably leads to an invisibility ray gone wrong, and much of the building, and Nick himself, are rendered impossible to view. Nick repairs to a friends beach-house, where her survives on consommé and vodka; any coloured food-stuffs render his gut visible. Captain of industry David Jenkins (Sam Neill) is on his trail, seeking to sell Nick to the highest bidder, but Nick successfully convinces Alice (Daryl Hannah) of his unusual condition, and she sets out to help him avoid capture as they flee cross-country on a train.
Hitchcock’s North by Northwest is clearly the model here, with Hanna the blonde, Neill modelling himself on James Mason, and a number of flee-ing man plot-points scrupulously observed. What’s new here is the effects; we see Nick inhaling cigarettes, digesting food and other neat visuals; it seems strange however, that Nick struggles to eat because he can’t see his hands. There are moments when Goldman and Carpenter manage to pull some neat twists on Invisible Man clichés, but they’re few and far between, and the finale is underwhelming.
Neither fish nor foul, Memoirs of an Invisible Man aims to create a modern twist on the science-gone-wrong theme, but despite largess in terms of effects and action, the comic undertones eventually deaden the attempts to create a chase movie. Everyone banked their checks, presumably, but the following year’s Jurassic Park paved the way for far more family-orientated effects showcases.