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April 02, 1986 - Image 7

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-04-02

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Wednesday, April 2, 1986

Page 7

'Money'is the pits

Kurt Serbus
IT'S PRETTY sad when an innocent,
eager-to-please comedy like The
Money Pit can't generate one good
laugh amidst all it's collapsing props
and grandoise slapstick, but that's
exactly what happens, thanks mainly
to director Richard Benjamin's
cement-splitting touch and an
amazingly unimaginative script.
The Money Pit was apparently con-
ceiyed as a nostalgic throwback to
those old man-against-mayhem
comedies with Harold Lloyd and
Buster Keaton, and it employs the
same premise: an ordinary guy (in
this case, Tom Hanks and Shelley
Long) goes head to head with some
inanimate but malevolent object (a
rapidly deteriorating *mansion that
the couple has just purchased, and the
battle is on to see who (or what)
breaks first. Beyond this basic
storyline, however, the resemblances
between The Money Pit and those
great comedies (or any "comedy")
ends.
Benjamin simply stacks one lame
e CLAFJIII[IIIIII
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gag on top of another with no concern
for timing or finesse, humping his
one-joke premise long after all the
potential is drained from it (which
happens about twenty minutes into
the film). Time after time the pattern
repeat itself . . . the hapless couple
shares a tender, quiet moment
followed by some uninspired bit of
mayhem like the bathtub falling
through the floor. Of course,
repetition in the name of comedy is
no crime, and in fact can be a very ef-
fective technique-assuming the
original bit is funny. Benjamin,
however, can't generate humor the
first time the stairs collapse or the
fourth time the front door falls over.
It's not really fair to lay blame on
actors when the writing and directing
are this godawful, but for the record,
Tom Hanks and Shelley Long do
nothing to salvage this dismal mess.
Hanks has thus far built his career
primarily on verbal comedy, playing
the lovable smart-ass. His role here
calls for more physical shtick than
one-)invrs, and the result is pretty

bland. He's not really that bad, just
out of his environment. Long puts a lot
of enthusiasm into her performance
but, alas, enthusiasm apparently isn't
enough, and her character gets buried
under the avalanche of rubble.
The one actor who manages to rise
above the material is Alexander
Godunov as Long's ex-husband, Max.
He somehow manages to convey a
touch of class to the proceedings by
poker-facing his way through his role
as a shallow, egomaniacal symphony
conductor. Maybe it's because he
looks as off-handedly embarrassed
being in the film as I felt watching it.
In the end, the Money Pit is one
long, sustained unfunny joke that
collapses under it's own stupidity. The
characters and plot are relatively
unimportant, as witnessed by the lack
of depth Benjamin invests in both
aspects, and we are left (God help us)
with the gags themselves. A lot of
movies have gotten by on less. But
then, a lot of movies didn't have
Richard Benjamin at the helm.

A bad movie about a bad investment. Shelley Long and Tom Hanks star in "The Money Pit".

Student plays show concern for society

Noelle Bro wer

P ICTURE, if you will, the Club
Paraguary, a dignified, elderly
"gentleman"of teutonic persuasion
steps on stage to offer his own ren-
dition of the Golden Oldies. Surely ol'
Blue Eyes would be tickled pink to see
his own trademark sung with such
heartfelt.emotion.
With memories of last summer's
discovery of the remains of Josef
Mengele still fresh in our minds,
Charlie Schulman's black comedy
Angel, is a sort of macabre "What
ever happened to . . ." for Nazi war
criminals. Shulman's play was the
second part of a double bill of student-
written and produced plays perfor-
med this past weekend by the RC
players at East Quad.
Naomi Saferstein's comedy, Little
Jokes, opened the evening's show.
Alice's friends are having a party in
the apartment above her, a rather ec-
centric "coming out" party; they are
celebrating the birth of their first
baby while the event is actually oc-
curing. However, there is a conflict
for Alice: Her mother is coming to
visit her the same day. One senses,
though, that Alice is merely using her
mother's arrival as an excuse not to
attend an event at which she would
not feel wholly comfortable.
Alice's friend, Ester, spends most of
her time on stage trying to coerce
Alice into attending the party. Their
often humorous, often bitchy
arguments are intermittently in-
terrupted by Harold, Michael Rosen-

blum, the nervous father-to-be.
Finally, Alice relents and goes to the
party.
Saferstein handles the difficulties
encountered by various cultures when
different customs clash and the
ability of both parties to overcome
these differences and accept
each other in an adept and informed
way. Alyson Maker and Hara
Harutunian as Alice and Ester
generate a sense of genuine warmth
between themselves. However, the
justification to support the two
women's close relationship is vague.
Maker's Alice is a neurotic, WASPy
young woman who often patronizes
her friend. Haruntunian's Ester is a
highly sympathetic, pedantic
bleeding-heart who is relentless in her
badgering of her friend to go to the
party. In themselves the characters
are well drawn and likeable, but
together there seems to be a lack of
common ground; why are these two
friends?
On the other hand, mostly one-
dimensional characters populate
Schulman's Angel - which works in-
credibly well in this black comedy.
Josef Mengele, played with intense
relish by Theo Leiber, under the
pseudonym of Gunther Ludwig, has
been making a living as a cabaret
singer in South America. Two
Hollywood producers,Bill and Betty
Century, played by Bob Jacobson and
Kara Miller, discover him. They con-
vince him to come to Hollywood to
star in their docudrama of his life
study, assuring him that they will not

reveal his identity until he is safely
back in hiding. Herr Ludwig views
this as his big chance to tell his side of
the story. The two producers view this
as an excellent opportunity to make
a lot of money.
After the production is finished,
they turn Mengele in, but no one
believes it is really him.
In fact, Mengele receives an
Academy Award for his portrayal of
himself. In his accceptance speech, he
reveals his true identity only to be an-
swered with thunderous applause. As
he screans "I am the Angel of Death"
the people clap even louder. The
people really believe he is acting.

Black humor permeates Angel. One
scene begins as a flashback to
Mengele's days as head doctor at
Auschwitz. We see him in a sterile,
white doctor's gown, looking distur-
bingly elegant. A young woman
prisoner enters, she is the mother of
twins, one of Mengele's favorite sub-
jects of study. To ensure the safety of
her children, she allows Mendele to
assault her.
Then, suddenly-lights up-this
"scene" is actually part of the
docudrama. The actress and Mengele
break, his eyes still glistening with
pleasure. She nonchalantly remarks
(to paraphrase) "This guy really get-

s into it!" Such is the humour of
Angel. The scene, probably the most
difficult in terms of staging, came off
cleanly. It would be impossible to
stage a rape in a tasteful manner, but
Schulman, who also directed the play,
carried it off in an unoffensive, yet
horrifying manner.
Sitting in the auditorium, a scary
premonition came over me. I could
actually see a major network filming
the story of Mengele. Fortunately, he
is not around to star in it; maybe they
can get. Klaus Barbi to play himself,
I'm sure there's nothing money can't
buy!

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