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August 03, 1978 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1978-08-03

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New comedies: L

By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
Like so many network television
episodes, the majority of summer
cinema fare generally evaporates from
memory the moment the final credits
begin to roll on screen. If you feel like
taking ina movie, then plunk down your
three bucks for Dear Inspector or The
End or Jaws 2-after awhile, they all
begin to look pretty much the same.
Personally, I've always harbored a
warm spot in my movie-going heart for
anything intended to tickle the funny
bone. I can always stomach a bad
comedy, but bad drama-especially if
it's bad "serious" drama-can leave
me ruminating on inventive ways to
murder the projectionist. All right, I'll
admit another Pink Panther sequel
isn't anything to start doing han-
dsprings over, but I'll take it till doom-
sday over The Swarm. Better
something innocuous (one can always
enjoy the air conditioning while
pleasantly ignoring the feature) then
something so rigorously banal that your
senses feel under assault.
With that in mind, I decided to sam-
ple four comedies playing around town,
seeking the answer to the question,
"Can even the worst of them sink only
so low?" The answer, it seems, is yes.
Sort of. One feature that seems to fit
this creed is Foul Play, which is being
hyped as "the new comedy thriller
from the makers of Silver Streak," a
dubious recommendation if ever there
was one.
WHEN FM, A FILM that instantly
joined Exocist II in the annals of truly
unfathomable cinematic badness,
made its loathesome little journey to
theatres everywhere, the reviewers'
catch-phrase was "Thank God for Mar-
tin Mull." With Foul Play, it looks like
it's "Thank God for Chevy Chase." Not
that the ex-Saturday Night Live master
of deadpan is brilliant in his first
starring role. He's simple the only one
in the movie (with the possible excep-
tion of Goldie Hawn, whose mental
state at any given moment is always
up to question) with the sense not to
take any of it seriously. -
Burt Reynolds, of course, mastered
this art long ago. Even in Deliverance,
his dynamic performance never over-
shadowed that easygoing attitude, a
persona that seemed to say, "it's only a
move." Similarly, Chase may suddenly
strike a pose or blurt out a tart rejoin-
der in any one of a multitude of charac-
ters, but this thin facade of credibility is
merely his way of telling us he's having
fun. When Chevy calmly asks Hawn, af-
ter they've been aquainted ap-
proximately twelve seconds, if she'd
like to take a shower, what's important
is not that Tony, his character, is kind
of a zany guy, but that Chevy the actor
is enjoying himself so, making
outrageous but essentially benign little
comments. This is nothing more than
elaborate mugging, an extended
variation of the shtick he did on
"Weekend Update."

UNFORTUNATELY FOR Chevy and
the film, writer-director Colin Higgins
is infinitely more adept at rehashing old
suspense bits than at getting laughs,
unearned or otherwise. Chase and
Hawn make a cute, funny couple when
left to themselves, but Higgins' all-out
tries for The Big Laugh fall to the
ground with great, resounding thuds.
The director even manages to squan-
der the talents of English comic Dudley
Moore, in a tediously overlong scene
where Moore unveils a definitive collec-
tion of sexual devices in his disco-
apartment. (Don't ask which soun-
dtrack album he puts on.) All very
trendy, and all very dull. Chase is given
virtually no acts of physical comedy, a
glaring miscalculation given his deser-
ved reputation for humorous pratfalls,
and a delightful scene near the begin-
ning in which he gets to knock over a
table of glassware and say, "My fault,
my fault entirely." The film must
therefore fuel itself on his laconic
tongue-in-cheek delivery, which can
only do so much.
THE RATHER predictable story has
Gloria Mundy (Hawn), a flighty
librarian, being pursued by a Man
From Glad look-alike because of some
top secret film she inadvertantly got
hold of. The movie keeps alive and oc-
casionally jolts us, although the
suspense tactics are, to emply a
euphemism, derivative. Every movie
nowadays must have its peculiarly
'70s variation, and in Foul Play, it's the
villains, whose mad scheme is to
assassinate the Pope as a protest
against the mass corruption in the
religious bureaucracy.
The movie's final setpiece, a rather
pathetic restaging of the end of A Night
At the Opera, may leave particularly
finicky comedy connoisseurs with a bad
taste in their mouths. I wasn't bothered
much by that scene, but Foul Play on
the whole is barely this side of tepid. I
only hope it is Chevy Chase's
springboard to better things.
* * *
Neil Simon's The Cheap Detective is
an amiable pastiche of Humphrey
Bogart's Big Four: The Maltese
SHORT or LONG
Halrcuttlng By Experts
DASCOLA
STYLISTS
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The Michigan Daily--Thursday, August 3, 1978-Page 5
aughing matters?
Falcon, The Big Sleep, Casablanca, and than anyone for laughs; at every pun-
To Have and Have Not. For reasons chlme you can just see him at his Smith-
unknown to all, Simon has become fir- Corona, giggling hysterically over
mly entrenched in the Mel Brooks syn- some joke he's just written. Trivia
drome, churning our well-meaning "af- maniacs will have a ball catalcguing
fectionate spoofs" of old movie genres the old-movie tidbits in The Cheap
that are more affection than spoof. In Detective. The rest of us must remain
The Cheap Detective-which features content with an occasional humorous
Peter Falk as the Bogart charac- quip, and the somewhat reassuring
ter-Louise Fletcher, Eileen Brennan, feeling that comes from loving those
Dom Deluise, John Houseman, and movies as much as Simon. Like I said,
Madeline Kahm parade around smokey it beats The Swarm.
sets aping Ingrid Bergman, Lauren * * *
Bacall, Peter Lorre, Sydney Green- SINCE I HAVE never seen Here
street, and Mary Astor. Comes Mr. Jordan, the 1940s comedy-
FORTUNATELY, SIMON'S fac- fantasy on which Heaven Can Wait was
similes of well-loved scenes and based, I am forced, perhaps for-
characters from yesteryear are tunately, into reviewing the new film's
sprinkled with a shade more wit than intrinsically dated design on its own
Mel Brooks brought to his disasterous terms. And frankly, I think it all works
High Anxiety, and Simon even manages wonderfully. The movie seems rather
to work in a few benevolent jabs: Flet- modest considering the talent that went
cher's Ingrid Bergman is so deadly into it (Elaine May co-wrote the
serious and overwrought with her screenplay, Buck Henery, of Get
melancholy reminiscenses that she's Smart, The Graduate, and Saturday
a screaming bore; Eileen Brennan, Night Live fame, co-directed, and
whose evocation of Lauren Bacall's Warren Beatty comprised these teams'
husky sexiness is often startlingly ac- other halves, aside from starring in the
curate, takes some funny potshots at picture), but it has so much good-
Bacall's omnipresent gesturings, and spirited vitality as both a lighthearted
actually made me laugh out loud once comedy and a touching romantic fable
(a major event for me at anything that it seems destined to be the
remotely connected with Neil Simon). cinematic highlight of the summer.
Simon, whose own The Goodbye Girl Beatty plays Joe Pendleton, a star
left the Briarwood movies on its first quarterback for the Rams who gets
run a scant several months before The whisked away to Heaven before his
Cheap Detective opened, works harder See NEW, Page 7
Comedian Fields diesI

LAS VEGAS (AP)-Totie Fields,
the once rotund nightclub and
television comedian who brought
laughter to millions, died yesterday
at the age of 48. Fields, who was
chosen by her colleagues as Enter-
tainer of the Year in January, had
been making a comeback after a leg
amputation, two heart attacks and
breast cancer. Said hospital
spokeswoman Rena Lees, "The
coroner hasn't been here yet, so I
can't really say the cause of death."

Fields once said, "I must do clubs.
That's where I get my feeling for
this business." She got her first
break in 1963 when Ed Sullivan
caught her act at New York's Copa-
cabana. He booked her on CBS and
she made more than 40 appearan-
ces.
Much of her humor was directed
at her rolly polly appearance. She
once donned an ostrich feather gown
"that every fat woman dreams of
buying but wouldn't dare."

TONIGHT-S p.m.
POWER CENTER
Box Office Opens 6 p.m.
763-3333
Michigan Rep. Ticket Office: Mon-Fri:
12-5 p.m, in the Michigan League.
764-0450
Tom Stoppard's Comedy
TRAVESTIES
Tonorrow night: Fina performance of

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