In this truly transparent comedy-thriller, which vanished quickly from theaters, Chevy Chase (Fletch, National Lampoon’s Vacation) once again plays a stumbling, bumbling smart aleck. This time, he’s Nick Halloway, a securities analyst who visits a scientific research company for a meeting, and, while asking directions to the men’s room, indirectly causes a meltdown at the lab. Before he can say Lou Costello, he becomes invisible. His lack of substance doesn’t bother his girlfriend (Daryl Hannah), but it does bring other problems. A power-hungry CIA agent (Sam Neill) happens to catch Nick’s disappearing act and decides a see-through spy would make the ultimate operative. Determined to press Nick into secret service at any cost, the agent relentlessly pursues him all across the beautiful San Francisco Bay area.
Directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, the remake of The Thing), this is part homage to ’50s sci-fi B movies (note the serious voice-over narration and melodramatic music) and part showcase for Chase’s brand of klutzy shtick. There are some funny moments—such as the invisible man trying to hail a cab— but often the jokes seem strained, and on video the special effects seem more seamless than, though just as witless as, they did in theaters. Much is made of the fact that when Nick eats, his meal is visible even if his stomach isn’t; we see him digest—and regurgitate. Later, he smokes a cigarette, and as in an instructional film from the Surgeon General, his invisible lungs inhale and exhale large quantities of tar and nicotine. Yet all the attention to physical reality is suddenly thrown aside at convenient times, such as when Nick’s in the mood for love. Viewing note: Be sure to rewind to catch the early scene where Chase jazzes it up at the piano. Yes, he’s really playing. Maybe he should have considered shooting a music video instead.