Volunteers (19985)
HBO Home Video
Cast: Tom Hanks, John Candy, Rita Wilson, Tim Thomerson
Extras: Theatrical trailer, Biographies

Every time I watch an old Tom Hanks movie, it reminds me dearly how much I miss him in his comedic parts. While I understand that his development to become a dramatic heavyweight was a good career move, personally I feel he has left an irreplaceable hole in the world of Hollywood comedies. No one before or since has had the ability to create characters the way he did, with depth, boyish charm, brains, a hilarious laughter and many others of his very own trademarks. One can only hope that at one point of his career the actor may decide to at least pay a return visit to the genre that made him the superstar that he is. Fortunately his movies are still around and some of them have been released on DVD. "Volunteers," his 1986 collaboration with John Candy has now found its way to DVD courtesy of HBO Home Video.

In "Volunteers" Tom Hanks plays Lawrence Bourne III, son of a rich family who is usually dwelling in his father’s wealth. But if there is one thing his father has little understanding for it is his son’s gambling habits and when Larry asks him for $28,000 to pay back gambling debts he has recklessly accumulated, his father refuses to cough up the money. Intent to teach his son a lesson that will teach him the value of money, the father does not realize how serious the situation is when Larry’s bookie shows up on their doorstep to collect the money. The only way out is to run as fast and as far away as he can, and Larry does just that. He takes his friend’s place in the Peace Corps and within minutes finds himself on his way to Thailand as a social worker. Once again relying on his family wealth and influence he is hopeful that his father will quickly bail him out of the situation, but when he arrives in Thailand, he learns that his father has already made arrangements to permanently sign his son up for the Peace Corps. The only way out now is the way through!

With his fellow do-gooders Tom Tuttle (John Candy) and the pretty Beth Wexler (Rita Wilson), Larry is soon pulled into a power play with a local drug lord. After an arrangement, Larry can once again re-establish his social status by opening his own bar in the jungle – with gambling tables of course. But what he forgets is that the drug lord expects something in return, and when he realizes what the ultimate price for his wellbeing is, Larry has some serious problems on his hands. Quickly the situation escalates as more people become interested in the work he is doing.

"Volunteers" may not be Tom Hanks’ best comedy, but it is nonetheless a riotous and highly entertaining movie. Teamed up with John Candy, the insanity and absurdity in some scenes is taken to extremes that will have you rolling on the floor. But also the dialogues and the abstruse logic found in Hanks’ character are what make the movie such an entertaining experience. Add to that a palette of other zany characters and Rita Wilson as the beauty around who much of the story ranks, and you have a truly untamed comedy fireworks. The beautiful location and production design certainly help greatly to release the story and the actors from many of their limitations, giving them seemingly free reign.

HBO Home Video is presenting "Volunteers" in a <$PS,widescreen> presentation that restores the movie’s original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets and reveals a great level of detail. Some grain is evident in a few select scenes but for the most part the source print is in good condition without distracting defects or scratches. The transfer restores the movie nicely with colors that appear slightly washed out, an indication of the movie’s age and period. Shadows are well defined and with good detail while blacks are deep and solid. The picture’s highlights are well-balanced, giving the film a pleasing presentation. There are no compression artifacts in the form of <$pixelation,pixelation> or signs of <$chroma,chroma noise> evident in the presentation of "Volunteers" and also no edge-enhancement seems to have been applied to the transfer, fully maintaining the details from the source print.

"Volunteers" comes with an English language stereo audio track in <$DD,Dolby Digital>. The track is well integrated and natural sounding. Although the bass extension on the track appears slightly limited, the overall frequency response is quite pleasing without creating the harshness found in many other movies of the time. Dialogues are always understandable, nicely integrated into the movie’s overall mix. "Volunteers" features a good score by James Horner that also helps to bring the story to life with its beautful orchestration and sonic cues that help drive the story’s dramatic moments. The disc also contains selectable subtitles in English, French and Spanish, as well as the movie’s theatrical trailer and cast biographies.

Throw John Candy and Tom Hanks in the jungle and let them go wild with a camera close by. That’s almost how "Volunteers" feels at times. The film has a certain uninhibited quality that is hard to pinpoint, but makes it a very refreshing comedy with plenty of absurd situations. The setting, the story and the characters create a colorful mix of source material for these master comedians to work from, and they do their best in making sure that viewers are completely absorbed by what they see on the screen. If you are looking for a light hearted and truly funny movie, "Volunteers" makes a great addition to your library.