A mixture of suspense, science fiction, comedy and drama, it stars Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean and Stephen Tobolowsky.
Nick Halloway (Chevy Chase) is a stock analyst who spends most of his life avoiding responsibility and connections with other people. At his favorite bar, the Academy Club, his friend George Talbot (Michael McKean) introduces him to Alice Monroe (Daryl Hannah), a TV documentary producer. Sharing an instant attraction, Nick and Alice make out in the ladies' room and set a lunch date for Friday.
The following morning, a hungover Nick attends a shareholders' meeting at Magnascopic Laboratories. Unable to endure the droning presentation by Dr. Bernard Wachs (Jim Norton), Nick leaves the room for a nap. A lab technician (Aaron Lustig) accidentally spills his mug of coffee onto a computer console, causing a meltdown, and the entire building is evacuated. The building seems to explode, but there is no debris. Instead, much of the building is rendered invisible, including Nick.
Shady CIA operative David Jenkins (Sam Neill) arrives on the scene, and discovers Nick's condition. While they are transferring him to an ambulance, the agents joke about how Nick will spend the rest of his life being studied by scientists. In a panic, Nick flees. Jenkins convinces his supervisor Warren Singleton (Stephen Tobolowsky) not to notify CIA headquarters so that they can capture and take credit for Nick, who could become the perfect secret agent.
Nick hides at the Academy Club. He locates Dr. Wachs and asks for his help to reverse his condition. Wachs agrees to help, but Jenkins kills him to keep Nick's invisibility a secret. Nick infiltrates the CIA headquarters to find any information that can be used against them. Jenkins discovers Nick and tries to recruit him, but Nick is disgusted by the idea of him killing people. They have a confrontation, but Nick gets away.
Nick goes to San Francisco and stays in George's remote beach house. George arrives with his wife Ellen (Patricia Heaton), Alice, and another friend, to spend the weekend. Nick phones Alice and tells her to meet him nearby. He reveals his condition to Alice, and she promptly faints. When she revives, Alice decides to stay with Nick and help him. They travel to Mexico, where Nick can start a new life. To make money, he trades stocks using Alice as a proxy. Jenkins tracks them down, and shoots Nick with a tranquilliser gun. Nick falls into a river, revives and escapes. He makes his way to a video store, where he records his memoirs on video tape, including an ultimatum for Jenkins: exchange Alice for the tape, or Nick will give it to the CIA and the press. Jenkins agrees to the exchange.
At the arranged time for the exchange, Jenkins puts Alice into a cab and orders his men to surround the phone booth where he thinks Nick is. The man in the phone booth turns out to be George, who is dressed in Nick's concealing clothing. Nick is disguised as the cab driver; he takes Alice away, pursued by Jenkins. They continue the chase on foot into a building still under construction, in the course of which Nick gets covered with concrete dust, outlining his silhouette. At the top, by taking off his jacket (which has the largest amount of dust on it), Nick tricks Jenkins into thinking that he has become desperate enough to commit suicide, thus making Jenkins lunge at the jacket and plunging off the building to his death.
Believing Nick to be dead, Singleton releases Alice. Nick reunites with Alice and they leave for Switzerland. The film ends with shots of Nick's apparently empty clothing skiing down a mountainside towards their chalet, where a pregnant Alice greets him with a hot drink and a kiss.Chevy Chase as Nick Halloway
Daryl Hannah as Alice Monroe
Sam Neill as David Jenkins
Michael McKean as George Talbot
Stephen Tobolowsky as Warren Singleton
Jim Norton as Dr. Bernard Wachs
Pat Skipper as Morrissey
Paul Perri as Gomez
Richard Epcar as Tyler
Steven Barr as Clellan
Gregory Paul Martin as Richard
Patricia Heaton as Ellen
Barry Kivel as a Drunk businessman
Donald Li as a Cab driver
Rosalind Chao as Cathy DiTolla
Jay Gerber as Roger Whitman
Shay Duffin as Patrick, the bartender
Edmund L. Shaff as Edward Schneiderman
Sam Anderson as Chairman of the House Committee
Elaine Corral as News anchor
Ellen Albertini Dow as Mrs. Coulson
Jonathan Wigan as a Delivery boy
I.M. Hobson as Maitre d'
Rip Haight* as a Helicopter pilot
Aaron Lustig as a Technician
* Pseudonym for John Carpenter.
Warner Bros paid $1.35 million for the film rights to the novel. William Goldman was assigned to write the screenplay in the mid 1980s, by which time Chevy Chase and Ivan Reitman were already attached.
The project was largely a vanity project shepherded by Chase through the studio (the film is billed as "A Cornelius Production" – Cornelius is Chevy Chase's real first name). He wanted to make a film about the loneliness of invisibility, and he had tapped Ivan Reitman to direct. He intended the film to be a bridge into less comedic roles, and when Reitman discovered that he would not be directing Chase in a broad comedy, he backed out of the film. Goldman left the project saying "I'm too old and too rich for this shit." He later said that Mark Canton, head of the studio, did not pay the writer for all his work causing Goldman to initiate a lawsuit against them.
Near the end of the film, Nick wonders aloud what his children with Alice will look like. John Carpenter did shoot an alternate ending showing this birth, but the film only shows Alice in the later stages of pregnancy.
During the scene where Alice first meets the invisible Nick, he is shown to have his head wrapped in bandages and is wearing large dark goggles — an acknowledgement to Griffin, the title character from the novel The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.
This is one of the few John Carpenter films not scored by the director, with Shirley Walker composing the music instead. Unlike prior collaborators Ennio Morricone on The Thing and Jack Nitzsche on Starman, Walker would re-team with Carpenter – the two co-scored the subsequent Escape From L.A..
The film debuted at No. 2. It went on to gross $14,358,033 USD.
The film received mostly negative responses from critics. It has a 21% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 6 positive reviews out of 28 with the summary: "It boasts an intriguing cast and the special effects were groundbreaking, but they can't compensate for Memoirs of an Invisible Man's sadly pedestrian script".
Roger Ebert wrote of the film, "The plot is lazy and conventional. What is good about the movie involves Chase and Hannah, who have to work out between them the logistical problems of their strange relationship." Reviewing the movie for The Washington Post, Desson Howe mused, "Memoirs of an Invisible Man isn't a movie. It's an identity crisis. The previews would have you believe it's a zany comedy. But the jokes are too far and few between. And if it's a comedy, why is John Carpenter directing it? This is the man who did Halloween...if Memoirs wants to get serious, why is Chevy Chase in the lead? This is the man who starred in National Lampoon's European Vacation."
While reviewing the DVD release of the film for Film Freak Central, Bill Chambers wrote that Carpenter's use of effects makes the film worth seeing. He feels that the scene where Nick's body is outlined by raindrops is more effectively imagined than an identical scene in Daredevil.