Volunteers – Tom Hanks & John Candy – Comedy1:46:54

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Published on August 30, 2016

Volunteers (film)

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This article is about the 1985 American comedy film. For other uses, see Volunteer (disambiguation).
Volunteers (film).jpg
The movie cover for Volunteers.
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Produced by Walter F. Parkes
Richard Shepherd
Written by Keith F. Critchlow
David Isaacs
Ken Levine
Music by James Horner
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • August 16, 1985
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million
Box office $19,875,740[1]

Volunteers is a 1985 American comedy film directed by Nicholas Meyer and starring Tom Hanks and John Candy in their second film together after Splash (1984).


Lawrence Bourne III (Tom Hanks), is a spoiled rich kid who just graduated from Yale (“A College”) Class of 1962; with a $28,000 gambling debt. After his father, Lawrence Bourne Jr. (George Plimpton), refuses to pay his son’s debt, Lawrence escapes his angry creditors by trading places with his college roommate Kent (Xander Berkeley) and jumping on a Peace Corps flight to Thailand.

There he is assigned to build a bridge for the local villagers with Washington State University graduate Tom Tuttle from Tacoma (John Candy) and the beautiful, down-to earth Beth Wexler (Rita Wilson). What they do not realize is that the bridge is coveted by the Central Intelligence Agency, a local communist force, and the powerful drug lord Chung Mee (Ernest Harada).



The film was in the works for six years before it was made. Volunteers was filmed in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico.[2] The filmmakers built a Thai village based on the Karen people of Burma’s Golden Triangle, building the world’s “longest suspension bridge” which was more than 250 yards long. A cast of over 100 people from all over the world, including Thai families, spent two and a half months filming.[3]

Meyer states that the director of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver, read the script and complained that it “was like spitting on the American flag,” and demanded changes. The changes were never made, but by the time the film was released, Shriver was no longer director, and Peace Corps officials were willing to endorse the movie.[3][4]

This film marked the reunion of Hanks and Candy, who starred in Splash. It is also the film where Hanks reconnected with his future wife, Rita Wilson, whom he had first met when they worked on an episode of Bosom Buddies.[5]

The scene in which Wilson and Hanks enjoy Coca-Cola was criticized as product placement, as TriStar was a unit of Columbia Pictures, then owned by The Coca-Cola Company. Co-writer Levine denies this, stating that the scene appeared in the first draft of the film written in 1980, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was to be the studio.[6]

The film spoofs a number of David Lean epics, including Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai, with the Washington State University Fight Song used in place of the “Colonel Bogey March“.[2]


Box office[edit]

The movie debuted No. 2 at the box office, earning $5,184,360 over its opening weekend.[7] It ultimately grossed a domestic total of $19,875,740.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Volunteers received generally mixed reviews from critics. The film holds a 58% positive “Rotten” score on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[8]

Walter Goodman of The New York Times praised the “steady directorial hand” of Nicholas Meyer and the “stylishly droll performance” of Tom Hanks, about whom Goodman added, “He is a center of confidence amid the frantic goings-on, turning peril into opportunity with an accent and aplomb that are the birthright of an eighth-generation Bourne.”[9]

Conversely, Variety called it “a very broad and mostly flat comedy” and wrote, “Toplined Tom Hanks gets in a few good zingers as an upperclass snob doing time in Thailand, but promising premise and opening shortly descend into unduly protracted tedium.”[10]Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune similarly stated that the film had “two lame performances by its leading actors, the vastly overrated Tom Hanks (…) and the consistently disappointing John Candy.” He elaborated:

Playing an animated bowling ball can be very funny in short bursts, and it can work in a supporting movie role (see Candy in Splash), but when you’re a top-billed star, when the movie is about your character, then you had better give us a character with some depth of emotion. Candy simply hasn’t learned that lesson. He needs scenes in his movies where he just relaxes and plays an approximation of himself.

As for Hanks, as in The Man with One Red Shoe and Bachelor Party, he again turns us off with his smug attitude. [Bill] Murray is smug and cocky in all of his films, too, but there is a human, relaxed, everyman base to Murray’s screen persona that isn’t off-putting. By comparison, Hanks comes off as a jerk.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b “Volunteers (1985)”. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 12,2015.
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b Meyer, Nicholas (2009). The View From the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood. New York City: Viking Press. pp. 166–175. ISBN 978-0-670-02130-7.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b Knelman, Martin. “Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy”. pp. 125–126.
  4. Jump up^ Sandra Blakeslee (August 18, 1985). “Behind The Jokes, Volunteers Ponders Altruism”. The New York Times.
  5. Jump up^ “Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson”. People. February 12, 1996.
  6. Jump up^ Levine, Ken (September 25, 2011). “Product Placement Before It Was Cool”. kenlevine.blogspot.com. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  7. Jump up^ “Michael Fox Stays On Top With `Future,` `wolf`”. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  8. Jump up^ “Volunteers (1985)”. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 1,2010.
  9. Jump up^ Goodman, Walter (August 16, 1985). “Movie Review: Volunteers (1985)”. The New York Times. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  10. Jump up^ “Review: ‘Volunteers'”. Variety. December 31, 1984. RetrievedOctober 12, 2015.
  11. Jump up^ Siskel, Gene (August 20, 1985). “‘Volunteers’ Signs up for disappointing trip”. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 11, 2012.

External links[edit]

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