Now we are all aware that the 1980s is a much beloved time among a great swath of today's movie fans. The decade was a very fertile and formative period for a lot of folks like myself and there is a whole lot of nostalgia attached to all types of films from the period.
Some movies obviously get less love than others and sometimes deservedly so, but often a few of them start to get left out of the conversation because of a lack of availability. MOVING VIOLATIONS was never on the level of 80s classics like THE GOONIES or the John Hughes films in terms of popularity, but it's always had a place in my heart.
I love the way Hollywood has always chased trends and how you can see so many patterns if you look back over decades of releases. MOVING VIOLATIONS feels like a response to the success of the POLICE ACADEMY films. It even has some weirdo cops in it that feel like spinoff characters from one of those movies. And then you've got lots of other weirdness and odd characters that also seem to align with a certain kind of POLICE ACADEMY-ish outlook on life in the big city. It should be no surprise then to know that Writer/Director Neal Israel is the man behind the movie. He of course wrote POLICE ACADEMY and was no stranger to 80s comedies in general. He and his co-writer Pat Proft had a hand in many of the good ones like BACHELOR PARTY and REAL GENIUS and I am a big fan of his work. Proft also worked with the Zuckers on some of their big movies so you can feel a similar sensibility at play.
John Murray. Let's talk about him. Brother of Bill obviously and you can certainly see the resemblance. I've heard a few criticisms of him and his performance here and while I can see how some might not be into what he's doing, I totally was when I first saw the movie as a kid. He was just the perfect sarcastic smart-ass for my younger self to get behind. He had this anti-authoritarian way about him too that totally hooked me when I saw it. I was just reaching an TIME if wanting to question authority more and more in my life and this immature goofball was my kind of guy in a comedy movie. Though I wouldn't get it at the time, I would later see that he seems to be trying to do a sort of Groucho Marx-y kind of thing maybe and the way people react or don't react to his comments reminded me of how they respond to Groucho in his films. It's a very fourth wall breaking thing where they both play to the audience and some jokes that are ignored by the other on screen players are only for us. I think it's a thing you can decide to go along with or not, but for me - it was just the ticket upon first (and second and third) viewings.
So all that is to say that if you're not on board with John Murray, you may not be on board with this movie. There's a whole lot of their fun stuff in it, a lot of it having to do with the cast. Amazing character actors like Fred Willard, Jennifer Tilly, Brian Backer (from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH), James Keach and the underappreciated Wendie Jo Sperber really help make it all funnier and more memorable. I think I also loved that the movie featured a character who liked to talk about horror movies and gore. To that point, I'd never seen a guy like him in a film and even though he was a total creepy psycho, I still found him interesting. On top of all that, MOVING VIOLATIONS is one of those wacky 80s comedies that has lots of zaniness and also lots of enjoyable stunt work as the whole thing escalates to a giant chase scene at the end. There's literally some kind of wacky stunt in almost every other scene. I really miss how they used to put lots of this kind of thing into comedy films around this time.
It also must be noted that MOVING VIOLATIONS was shot by Robert Elswit, who would go on to other such amazing looking movies as THERE WILL BE BLOOD, BOOGIE NIGHTS, GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, NIGHCRAWLER and many many more (he's one of the greatest cinematographers working today).