The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

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The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is a 1990 film and star vehicle for 80's comedian Andrew Dice Clay, who plays the eponymous Ford Fairlane. It's also notable for being an early work of Finnish director Renny Harlin and being featured in the music video for Billy Idol's "Cradle of Love." It was not well received, tying for the Golden Raspberry Award with Ghosts Can't Do It the year of its release; Roger Ebert called it "loud, ugly and mean-spirited." Naturally, it didn't do well in the box office, although Clay has claimed this was the result of protesters getting it pulled from theaters after only one week.

Ford Fairlane is a private investigator who specializes in the Hollywood music industry. His business, run by himself and his assistant, Jazz (Lauren Holly), is experiencing financial difficulties because most of his clients keep paying him with expensive gifts instead of money. Eventually, he's hired by two seemingly unrelated clients, shock-jock DJ Johnny Crunch (Gilbert Gottfried) and humorless socialite Colleen Sutton (Priscilla Presley), to find a young groupie named Zuzu Petals. Although he has reservations, they offer him cash. His investigations lead him through a cast of colorful characters, including sleazy record producer Julian Grendel (Wayne Newton), a giggling mercenary known only as "Smiley" (Robert Englund), the bumbling, nostalgic cop Lieutenant Amos (Ed O'Neill), and space cadet Zuzu Petals (Maddie Corman).

According to director Renny Harlin on his DVD Commentary, the script was originally written as a very standard detective story. When Andrew Dice Clay was cast in the lead, changes were made to incorporate several of Clay's stand-up routines. This decision was probably an effort to boost box office numbers, as much of the audience probably consisted of people who were established fans of Clay. On the other hand, although Andrew Dice Clay was originally noticed for his celebrity impressions, his real fame came from his over-the-top vulgarity, audacious sexism, politically incorrect humor, and the inevitable controversy it created. This led to a lot of backlash against his work, especially from women's rights advocates. Among other things, he was banned from MTV, and his appearance on Saturday Night Live, originally aired during a later time slot than usual, was boycotted by cast member Nora Dunn. By the time this movie was released, Andrew Dice Clay's comedy career was pretty much over. Ford Fairlane may or may not have been a last-ditch effort to revitalize his popularity, but it (and its failure) ultimately served as the final nail in the coffin.

Tropes used in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane include:
  • Accidental Public Confession: Type 3. During the climax of the movie, Ford Fairlane lures antagonist Julian Grendel backstage, where the latter brags about the details of his evil scheme. Unbeknownst to him, Zuzu Petals is standing behind him with a microphone, and his flamboyant boasting is heard by the crowd.

Fairlane: You're two seconds away from the most embarrassing moment of your life.

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: There are a few instances of this, particularly in the beginning and the end.
    • "What, you didn't think we'd kill the fluckin' koala, did ya?"
  • Chekhov's Gag: "Hit paydirt with K-Dirt!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Sambuka Milkshake.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Zuzu Petals, having moved well beyond just ditzy.
  • Cool Car: Ford Fairlane owns a very nice '57 Ford Fairlane.
  • Disco Dan: Andrew Dice Clay's stand-up comedy shtick is basically that of a 1950's greaser. Fairlane, as a character, is only different in that he's given a slightly updated look.
    • Lieutenant Amos is a much more literal example. Besides being an incompetent cop, the full extent of Amos's characterization is his obsession with the 70's. He used to be the lead singer for Disco Express; he breaks out into the chorus of their one hit single, "Booty Time," at every opportunity. He dresses professionally in most of his appearances (although he does have the mustache), and does eventually show up in his 70's leisure suit.
  • Double Entendre: Several examples throughout the film, most of them from Ford Fairlane.
  • Dumbass DJ: Johnny Crunch, the "King of the Shock Jocks," played by professional loudmouth Gilbert Gottfried.
  • Fake Band: The Black Plague, whose lead singer, Bobby Black, drops dead during the opening credits. The Black Plague plays one song during the movie, which is actually the song "Rock N Roll Junkie" by Mötley Crüe.
    • Also Disco Express, Lieutenant Amos's former band.
    • FF and The Captain, former band of Ford and Johnny when they moved to Hollywood.
    • The Condom Factory front also features a long list of fake band names.
  • Fan Service: The scene at the I Eta Pi sorority house, oh so very much.
    • Also the girl from the "Cradle of Love" music video, not featured in the movie but still worth noting.
  • 555: Lampshaded in the opening scene when Fairlane gives his number to a young hottie he meets at a club. She protests, telling him that 555 isn't a real number, just one used in movies. He responds with "Yeah--no shit, honey, what do you think this is, real life?"
  • The Fun in Funeral: The funeral for posthumous character Bobby Black is a circus to begin with, starting with a sleazy guy scalping tickets and offering discounts to women who, um, service him first. It only goes downhill from there, when Smiley shows up to kidnap Zuzu Petals. Ford and Smiley have a merry car chase through the cemetery, knocking over Bobby Black's circular glass casket in the process, causing it to roll downhill with screaming fangirls in hot pursuit.
  • Giggling Villain: Robert Englund's leather-and-chains-clad mercinary shows up out of nowhere, says "'ello, 'ello!", and giggles like a lunatic while trying to kill Fairlane. Although he's never given a name, Fairlane starts referring to him as "Smiley."
  • Groin Attack: Zuzu Petals does this twice. First, with Ford: she gets down on her knees to beg for his help, and he assumes that she's doing something else. Insulted, she punches Stanley. Later, she socks Lieutenant Amos in the crotch, causing him to sing "Booty Time" soprano.
    • There's also a fake-out Groin Attack during the beginning of the movie, when Ford, accompanied by Josie and the Pussycats (no, not them), almost performs a "Citizen's Castration" on Sam the Sleazebag.
  • I Call Him Mr. Happy: Stanley. Like the power drill.
  • I Love the Dead: A variation happens when Ford has to hijack a hearse for a car chase in a cemetery. The corpse, a large-chested woman, slides into the passenger's seat, forcing Ford to struggle with her limp body as it leans and flops against him. He notices her cleavage and comments "Damn, baby--I hope you filled out some organ donor cards!" Of course, he's visibly freaked out when the girl wakes up.
  • In-Series Nickname: Ford Fairlane is often called "Mr. Rock-n-Roll Detective" or something similar. He's not fond of it.
  • Kavorka Man: While he's not exactly ugly, Ford Fairlane is crass, rude, and incredibly sexist. Yet, the hot young women are all over him.
  • Large Ham: Andrew Dice Clay, throughout the entire movie. Gilbert Gottfried qualifies as well; if he didn't have such a small role, it might have led to outright Ham-to-Ham Combat.
  • Living MacGuffin: Zuzu Petals.
  • Man On Fire: How Ford disposes Julian.
  • Mouthy Kid: One of the subplots involves a kid who emulates Ford. Even Ford can't believe some of the things that come out of his mouth. He hires Ford to find his father, a plotline that ends as a Shaggy Dog Story.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Ford keeps a nickeled S&W Model 38 up his sleeve in a spring-loaded gamblers' rig. With only a couple of exceptions, it frequently malfunctions.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Ford Fairlane is blatantly and shamelessly sexist. Many of his lines are lifted verbatim from Andrew Dice Clay's own stand-up comedy act, which is one of the primary reasons his career tanked so badly by the end of the 80's.
  • Plot Coupon: The three computer disks that contain the incriminating evidence.
  • Police Are Useless: Lieutenant Anus Amos is an absolutely clueless cop who shows up at crime scenes and acts as Ford's police competition. He doesn't even come close to solving the case, and Ford makes no effort to help him.
  • Pro Bono Barter: The reason Ford takes the cases of Johnny Crunch and Colleen Sutton in the first place, despite knowing that both are deceiving him, is because all of his clients bring him expensive (but tacky) gifts instead of money.
  • Refuge in Vulgarity: Andrew Dice Clay rose to fame with this trope, and by extension, it's used frequently in this movie. This could be one of the reasons why the movie did so poorly.
  • Take That: The movie's Tagline calls Kojak, Columbo and Dirty Harry "Wimps."
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: Ford is so cool, he makes this a reality within the first ten minutes of the movie.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: One of the punk gunslingers. Julian Grendel, Smiley, and the other punk gunslinger are all killed off, but when last we see this punk gunslinger, he is fighting Sam the Sleazebag. Although Jazz and Sam are next shown entering the building, showing they must have defeated him somehow. Although after Grendel is defeated Smiley returns for revenge, but the punk gunslinger never does.