MIO Movie Reviews: Twister
10:25 AM EDT on May 12, 2014
(Editor's Note: We've tasked Louis Fowler with writing reviews of classic films that were either filmed or set in Oklahoma. Since we're in the month of May – and because it features a cameo by Lord England –we thought we'd start with the greatest MIO movie of all time: Twister.)
People tend to forget just how much of a big deal Twister was when it was released almost 20 (!) years ago. The thrill of a movie being shot in Oklahoma, the star-studded premiere at Penn Square Mall, the dried-out drama teachers looking for attention by claiming they were a “star” of the movie…
OK. Let me backtrack on that last one.
I went to the Classen School of Advanced Studies, part of the first graduating class of the newly reopened magnet school. Split in half as both an International Baccalaureate (for the smart kids) and an arts school (for the future baristas), I mostly straddled the line between both. While I was in IB English classes, I spent most of my time screwing around in videography watching Rudy Ray Moore flicks. However, my real want was to be in drama.
The drama class/club was about as insufferable and intolerable as any random Glee episode, minus the kid in the wheelchair. As much as I tried to be a part of it, it was probably the worst clique (nicknamed the Tiny Tots…ugh) on campus and was run by a Skeksis who despised me the moment she laid eyes on my husky torso and grotesque visage. Leading man material I was not.
The closest I got to being in this much-reviled hive of teacher’s pets and grade-grubbers was taking a semester in playwriting class where I learned more than ever just how much I was not wanted there. And while that’s a story for another time, I’ll never forget when Twister came out. This teacher’s stories for a good six months were filled with Access Hollywood-lite tales of backstage life because said instructor had apparently garnered a role in the much-anticipated motion picture.
Finally, after months of waiting, the film was released and…yeah…I didn’t see her. Even more months later, after the movie was released on VHS, she brought a copy to class to point her scene out, which was little more than an ambiguous silhouetted image in a quick-cut montage. Of course, when questioned, she relayed that her scene of hollering “There’s a twister!” was left on the cutting room floor.
And while the cinematic schadenfreude was sweet—I personally wrote director Jan de Bont a letter thanking him for help in my dramatic plot of imagined pseudo-vengeance—I still think of it whenever I watch that movie, a warm creamy feeling slathering my entire petty being.
But, even to this day, you’ll still hear yarns of people who played football with Bill Paxton on the set or procured heroin for Phillip Seymour Hoffman (too soon?), told with the same type of homespun storytelling usually best left to old men sitting on a front porch in Maine while enjoying a cool glass of Country Time Lemonade.
That being said, I haven’t seen Twister in nearly two decades since that playwriting class and honestly felt like I didn’t need to. Really, do any of us Oklahomans need to? For the past few years, we’ve lived it and sorry, but tornadoes are not the special effects spectacular that Hollywood made it out to be. No, twisters and other wind-blown acts of God actually suck and only to snuff-film enthusiasts driving around in souped-up cyclone-Broncos are they really worthy of a bucket of pop-corn.
The always affable Bill Paxton plays himself, only as a tornadic scientist or something and Helen Hunt is his long-suffering ex who seems more suited to a Western art-gallery on the Paseo that sells turquoise new-age jewelry than a down-home Okie gal.
The action begins when a leisure-suited Gary England keeps Hunt’s family advised back in the 60s (?), as a tornado destroys everything in its path to the point where I’m surprised there were no CGI sharks involved. This, as we learn, is the catalyst that keeps her driven to tame these wild winds through a mixture of fear and awe and not wearing any make-up.
Bill Paxton, on the other hand, is just some cool dude who chases tornadoes ‘cause it’s a great way to score some totally bitchin’ aftermath-puss, bro.
While love might have torn them apart, inclement weather thankfully brings them back together on the worst (for 1996, losers) outbreak of terrible twisters in one day ever, where approximately 3.4 billion tornadoes attack Gotebo (or someplace similar). How do we know? Because this exchange happens in the first five minutes:
Scientist one: “We might have a record number of tornadoes!”
Scientist two: “This is going to be a long day!”
Cue the Aaron Copland-esque score over a shot of the sweeping Oklahoma plains as Hunt and her rag-tag team of Bad News Barometers (comprised of Roach from The People Under the Stairs, Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the aforementioned late Seymour Hoffman, among others) try to fix the weather satellite on top of their child-molester van while Tori Amos blares on the soundtrack.
(Tori Amos? Really? Do you think Dominator4 stalks these things listening to Ani DiFranco or Sarah McLachlan? Hell no! They’ve got it turned up to 11, cranking out some Yngwie Malmsteen! Back me up here, Reed Timmer!)
Seems this cyclonic cadre’s purpose is to constantly try to somehow lift a 5th grade science project into the vortex, probably to study it. I’m not sure. But, needless to say they can’t do it and, because of such, they fail to stop the 19.7 trillion tornadoes destroying Wynnewood (or someplace similar).
As they try to achieve this noble meteorological goal, in hot pursuit is Cary Elwes as the evil rival stormtracker who, dastardly enough, is only in it for the money, and, antagonistically enough, is also trying to get his own science project into the tornado suck-zone. But, spoiler alert, he dies in a fiery explosion, because fuck him.
The remaining three hours of the movie is basically the gang running from tornado to tornado, trying to get this metallic contraption into the sky, all the while providing absolutely no helpful precautions to viewers by hiding under rickety wooden bridges and using a cheap leather belt to tie oneself down while the F5 moves DIRECTLY over them, amazingly not splitting this dryline-duo in half.
And, in perhaps the most famous scene, one that resembles a Terry Gilliam animation, a cow is tousled about, smiling and mooing like he was auditioning for a Chick-Fil-A commercial. Also, hail is shaped like Reddy-Ice, tornadoes hate old hippie ladies, waterspouts growl like hungry lions and 35-year-old me is dangerously in love with Helen Hunt.
Featuring cameos from every single popular weatherman (at the time) and filmed on location throughout rural Oklahoma, Iowa and, um, Canada, all in all, Twister isn’t a bad movie, just a wholly stupid—and, as we’ve seen in recent years, stupidly inaccurate—one made by Hollywood elites who refer to us as “those flyover dum-dums who will take whatever we give them, the gravy-sucking morons!”
Still, I’d love to see a 3-D remake starring Matthew McConaughey (the A-List Bill Paxton), Kate Upton (the D-Cup Helen Hunt) and Mike Morgan’s sparkly tie, all set in the current political climate of Oklahoma wherein Mary Fallin signs a bill refusing to grant schools the money to build storm-shelters as she laughs maniacally while twirling her moustache. Directed by Lance McDaniel, if possible.
And, even better, I might even try out for a part in it. I just hope my scene isn’t left on the cutting room floor.