Credentials: 4.8 out of 10 (Imdb.com) / 18%, Certified Rotten (Rottentomatoes.com) / Nominated for two Razzies at the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards--- Worst Actor (Emilio Estevez) and Worst Director (Stephen King)
Plot: Machines all across the planet suddenly spring to life thanks to either radiation from a comet or a sinister alien plot (the movie doesn’t get bogged down in details) and begin to wage war on humanity. A rag tag band of survivors (led by Emilio Estevez) take refuge in a small town truck stop and must fend off attacks by everything from electric knives to 18-wheelers. If nothing else, just sit back and enjoy the soothing and near-constant sounds of AC/DC on the soundtrack.
Why it sucks: Stephen King has published almost 50 novels, written hundreds, maybe thousands of short stories, and had his works adapted into countless movies and TV shows. Hell, the man has even acted--- usually very poorly--- in many of those adaptations. However, he’s only directed ONE thing in all his years in the entertainment industry.
“Maximum Overdrive” is that thing and after watching it, it’s easy to see why he never went back.
His directing is not good, it’s actually on par with his acting in case you’re wondering. Still, King’s not a director, so I can forgive him for not knowing how to handle actors or pacing or elicit any sort of tension whatsoever.
The real problem is the film’s screenplay, which King wrote and is based off his own short story “Trucks.” This screenplay, I mean my god. It’s really hard to wrap your head around it. The man is one of the most famous, talented and successful writers of all time.
For starters, the possessed trucks spend the majority of the movie driving in big looping circles around the parking lot of this rinky-dink diner/gas station. That’s it. They came to life to do that.
Very late in the game the movie tries to explain why the trucks haven’t just rammed into the dinner and killed everyone inside. It seems the trucks want someone to pump gas for them. Awesome. Why did we need to watch them drive in circles for 65 minutes before that little tidbit came out?
There’s also the problem of just what machines can come to life. As I said, the big boys like trucks are alive and well, as are bulldozers and military weapons. And smaller things like vending machines and ATMs, all the way down to electric knives are also in the mix.
What’s missing? Cars. Two main characters spend a huge chunk of the movie driving around in a car that doesn’t seem to have any interest in killing them. This is never explained or addressed. In fact, at one point the trucks destroy the car. Vehicle on vehicle crime!!
As bad as the plot is, the dialogue is way worse. King shoehorns in insane, cringe-inducing bits of dialogue like: “That’s what I was doing, before every machine in the world went into… maximum overdrive.”
Most of the characters are completely indistinguishable from one and other. Honestly, there weren’t even that many people in the diner, but King couldn't be bothered giving most of them names, lines or even death scenes. They were just there, occupying space. Like breathing pieces of furniture.
Leading man Emilio Estevez sleepwalks through the movie as a tough guy cook and group leader. Sure he got a Razzie nod for Worst Actor, but there is a far more deserving candidate in “Maximum Overdrive.”
Yeardley Smith, who would go on to immense fame providing the voice of Lisa on a little show called “The Simpsons.” She is a nasally, nagging terror as a newlywed on the run from the machines with her husband.
Worst of the worst: I mentioned it already, but my god that “maximum overdrive” line is terrible. Also worth mentioning is any sequence that features the movie’s theme song, the awful AC/DC track “Who Made Who?”
Beware of vending machines!
Everyone deserves a mulligan and this is without a shadow of a doubt Stephen King’s. Bumblebee tuna.