Cocktails and Movies Take Out Theater: Johnny Dangerously – Vintage Keaton

by Tim Barley

Johnny Dangerously is one of the funniest movies you’ll say “Man, I love it, but haven’t seen it in forever.”

Johnny DangerouslyBack in the 1980’s, Michael Keaton was considered one of the funniest guys on the silver screen, with his funny average-man humor with just a touch of snark. Having cut his movie acting teeth in the movie Night Shift, Keaton then followed this up with successful roles in Mr. Mom, Beetlejuice, and Gung Ho. But, in between all of these movies is a gangster film spoof that features an ensemble cast, including Keaton, Peter Boyle, Marilu Henner, Joe Piscopo, Maureen Stapleton, and others and directed by Amy Heckerling (Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) that will leave you laughing and quoting for weeks after. Tonight’s Take Out Theater selection is Johnny Dangerously.

Johnny DangerouslyJohnny Dangerously
Directed ByAmy Heckerling
Year Released: 1984
Starring: Michael Keaton, Marilu Henner, Peter Boyle, Joe Piscopo, Maureen Stapleton
Rating: PG-13
Runtime:  90 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Johnny Dangerously opens as Johnny Kelly catches a kid trying to steal a puppy from his pet store. In an effort to steer the kid from a life of crime, he tells the story of his previous career… It’s 1910. Young Johnny Kelly is a poor newsboy being raised, with his law-fascinated brother, by his mother Ma Kelly. They discover his mom needs an operation they cannot afford so the local crime boss Jocko Dundee offers Johnny a job robbing the nightclub belonging to Dundee’s rival, Roman Moronie. When asked his name, Johnny coins the name, “Johnny Dangerously.”

Years pass. With his mom’s continuing medical problems, Johnny goes to work for the Dundee gang full-time. The whole neighborhood (including the Pope) knows that Kelly is really Johnny Dangerously, but Johnny’s secret identity is carefully concealed from his brother and mother. Similarly, the gang knows nothing of Johnny’s mother and brother.

JohnnyDangerously Danny VerminAs the Dundee and Moroni gangs go to war, two new gang members join the group, Danny Vermin (Joe Piscopo), Johnny’s old nemesis and Dutch. Johnny falls in love for a young showgirl new to the big city, Lil Sheridan (Marilu Henner) and Jocko retires, leaving Johnny to run the Dundee gang. Meanwhile, Tommy graduates from law school and he goes to work for the District Attorney’s office. Against Johnny’s orders, DA Burr and Vermin conspire to kill Tommy, who won’t “play ball.” Tommy is badly injured, but survives. Divining the truth, Johnny has DA Burr killed—but this leaves Tommy as the new D.A.

Vermin discovers that Dangerously is the D.A.’s brother—and Tommy overhears Vermin talk about it. Tommy confronts Johnny, who agrees to quit the life of crime. The gang, though, is not as eager and suggests Johnny may be turning state’s evidence against them. Johnny denies this, and goes to turn the evidence against himself to the Crime Commissioner—who Vermin has just killed, and has framed Johnny. Tommy tries the case against him and Johnny is found guilty, sentenced to the electric chair and sent to death row.

Johnny arrives on Death Row, where he receives rock star treatment from the starstruck warden. He receives word of Tommy’s danger, and plots an escape, prevailing on the warden to move up his execution. He escapes in a laundry truck driven by Lil. Johnny, through a wild chase, arrives at the movie theatre where Tommy is to be killed. He shoots and wounds Vermin, saving Tommy. The governor pardons Johnny as Vermin is arrested.

To be sure, Johnny Dangerously is sophomoric and juvenile. That’s what I like about it. Amy Heckerling’s ability to stretch the credulity of a scene while using the natural charm that Keaton is able to bring forth makes for some great scenes. Running gags also make use of Joe Piscopo’s perfect evil vibe of Danny Vermin, including his use of his .88 Magnum and threatening Johnny while mentioning that his mother had done things “once.” Some other running gags include Ray Walston as the newspaper vendor who gains and a loses his vision as well as amnesia each time he is hit in the head with a bundle of newspapers, and Johnny’s mother who has progressively more expensive operations.

Johnny Dangerously moroniThe cast is stellar and includes some great performances from actors we don’t see much anymore. Boyle’s turn as Jocko Dundee and Richard Dimitri’s portrayal of English language destroyer, Roman Moroni is the stuff of legend. You wonder where “farging ice holes,” “cork soakers,” and “farging bastages” come from? Look no further than this movie. When it all comes together onscreen, there are some very funny sight gags and one liners that make this movie a funny time at the “Take Out Theater” for you and your buddies or that special someone who likes funny movies as well. If she/he likes these types of movies, do not let them go!

Now, what should we drink with this week’s selection?

The Drink

PlantersPunch Take Out TheaterIn the 1920’s, rum was popular and drinks like the Planter’s Punch were popular in the South and even as far North as New York City. It’s a great drink to enjoy with this fun film. Rum drinks are a favorite around here and other than the grenadine, you SHOULD have all the ingredients in your bar at home to whip this drink up quickly for you and your special someone, or your buddies, as the case may be with this movie.


Planter’s Punch


  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 1/4 oz grenadine
  • Equal parts sour mix and either pineapple or orange juice to fill
  • Club soda (optional)
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish
  • Lemon or orange slice for garnish


  1. Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes.
  4. Top with club soda if you want.
  5. Garnish with seasonal fruits.

 – C&M –

Well, that’s another installment of “Take Out Theater.” We hope you enjoyed today’s selection. We’ve got more coming in our “Month of Funny,” celebrating funny movies! Have a suggestion for us to share with others? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter or send an email to