The Michigan Daily - Wedu4 ec. - Thursday, November 30, 1995 -3B
Crystal's 'Mr. Saturday Night' trap
Sound and Fury
he Christmas season is rough
on newspaper columnists. For
some reason we seem to
>ecome saturated by goopy,
slobbery holiday sap - no doubt
the result of being goopy, slobbery
drunk after one of the season's
countless office parties.
I haven't had a drop of Captain
Morgan's egg nog yet this year, I
swear to you, gentle reader. But
those pesky holiday carolers are
starting early this season, and it's
making it very hard to write.
In fact, here comes the Young
Socialists Christmas Jug Band
singing "Frosty the Snowman."
Frosty the Postman,
was oppressed by the bourgeoisie,
With a wife, four kids and a dog at
and a dismal salary.
Frosty the Postman
must revolt against oppression,
Socialists may have no freedom
but they seldom face recession!
- Now here comes the MSA Holiday
eck thehalls with the new Code
+a la la l a, la laila
iis thiseason forMSA to fold
a a Ia 1la la alaIa.
Y e've got too much partisan
a la la, Fa la la, la la la
ee our credibility flick'ring
Follies led by Flint, la la la la..
And check out the solemn voices of
4RA boys and girls singing the
Traditional hymn "Silent Night":
''kids with guns, nothing cuter!
4ederal agents with gaping head
FBI agents are jack-booted goons.
Distort the second Amend-ment!
istort the second Amendment!
Hey, look, kids! It's the former
Been queen turned angst-ridden,
4mpowered grunge-girl Alanis
orissette singing "The First Noel."
4Jy first image, the critics did say,
; vas too soft for the alterna-teens
o I threw it away.
:threw it away, and now I'm grungy
4Wey play me on the MTV, and kids
hink I'm a trip.
Ooh, it's the reunited Beatles doing
'We Three Kings."
;We three Beatles ofLiverpool
;Oat a reunion tour will be a good
4ounge, casino, dome or arena,
ell-outs will earn heaps of dough.
Enough already! I need some peace
qnd quiet ... and lo! Observe the
legions of Daily readers outside my
window greeting me with a personal-
ed version of "Jingle Bells."
Scrawling nasty rhymes.
how a little cheer for once
you know it's Christmas time! Hey!
a young and bitter crank,
after reading this column
'm sure egg nog he drank! Hey!
Now. now. I know this is one of
By Joshua Rich
Daily Film Editor
Who, you might ask, has been giving
Billy Crystal his career advice lately?
After all, he used to be a big star -
"Saturday Night Live" funny man, stand-
up comic celeb, annual host of the Acad-
emy Awards and huge, name-in-big-
bright-lights movie star. Now he just
seems like another one of those fleeting
movie actors; a guy who comes out of
oblivion, makes one mediocre movie af-
ter another, and then disappears again.
He's just not the same old Billy.
So what happened?
Well, for starters, he stopped being
funny. Actually, come to think of it,
that is a pretty major problem ... his
main drawback. And it is not something
that Crystal suffers alone - actors and
comedians who base their careers on
their keen comic abilities are bound to
trip up at some point. Mr. Saturday
Night, himself, fell down a long time
Things were going just fine for
Crystal in the '70s. He was a hit on the
television sitcom "Soap," and he
gradually made his way past prime
time to become a recurring contribu-
tor to the fledgling "Saturday Night
Live" program. Remember his lines:
"You look mah-veh-lous?" Crystal
tickled the funny bones of America
with amusing impressions of foreign-
ers and generally strange people. His
was never a form of humor based on
sight-gags or dumb facial expressions
(read: Jim Carrey). Billy had it much
harder - he was almost exclusively
dependent on his intellect and wit.
That is what made him so special and
After many years of doing stand-up
routines and television sketches, he
moved on to Hollywood, where he
starred in a series of films that, for the
most part, focused on his comedic
talents. He pulled off lead roles in weak
comedies such as the buddy-cop ac-
tion-comedy "Running Scared (1986),
in which he played Gregory Hines'
partner hot on the trail of some bad guys
(a la "48 Hours").
Then Crystal hit it big with two films
- both quite clever and successful pic-
tures - that were released in 1987. In
"Throw Momma From the Train," he
played a disgruntled writer and profes-
sor who agreed to kill Danny De Vito's
mother if the short man killed his wife
in return. And he stole the show in Rob
Reiner's "The Princess Bride" as
Miracle Max, the hilarious Brooklyn/
Jewish-esque witch doctor who brings
hero Cary Elwes back to life. Though
not entirely demanding or complex
roles, Crystal succeeded because he was
able to imbue his characters with enough
smart and witty dialogue that they
seemed even funnier than anticipated.
Afterwards, gaining greater celeb-
rity seemed a cinch. He co-hosted the
popular annual HBO charity event,
"Comic Relief." Emcee-ing with
Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams
and others, Crystal could often be
found doing his same old stand-up
shtick or even swatting baseballs into
the audience. But perhaps his most
famous acting part came next, as he
starred in Reiner's romantic comedy
"When Harry Met Sally ..." (1989),
opposite Meg Ryan. As many have
come to know him, Crystal was at the
height of his comedic talents in this
film, playing the snide, neurotic and
chauvinist yet entirely lovable Romeo
character, It is a performance that he
has yet to match.
In Crystal's other hugely successful
film, "City Slickers" (1991), he once
again proved his worth as the silly
straight-man to Jack Palance's psycho
cowboy and a herd of raging cattle. But
things began to go downhill from there.
His annual gig on the Oscars became
old - as exemplified by the repeatedly
stupid references to Palance's one-armed
push-ups after his "Slickers" co-star won
an award. He tried his hand at directing
movies, creating the box-office dud "Mr.
Saturday Night" (1992). And his follow-
up to the initial successof"City Slickers,"
a worthless project called "City Slickers
2: The Legend of Curly's Gold," was ar
Crystal's major downfall can be
traced to the fact that he lost his genuine
cleverness somewhere along the way.
He got too caught-up in his growing
stardom and abandoned his comedic
roots. Those seemingly inherent abili-
ties were what made Crystal so popu-
lar; losing them caused his ultimate
decline. As of late, we don't hear too
much from Billy. The Academy Awards
have been taken over by Goldberg and
David Letterman; his once frequent
appearances on TV and in movies have
become much more sparse; Comic Re-
lief (although just returning this sea-
son) has been on a short hiatus.
In 1995, however, Crystal returned
with another self-directed motion pic-
ture, "Forget Paris" - available on
home video this week - in which he
starred opposite Debra Winger (another
struggling former star). Once again off
the comedic mark, this film is indica-
tive of the sagging trend in Crystal's
career. Suffice to say: The movie was
basically a flop in the theaters, and it
will probably repeat the act at home.
So, maybe Billy should take some
expert advice (because God knows he
has probably been listening more to
such master thespians as Jim "Ernest"
Varney, Yahoo Serious or Anthony
Michael Hall lately): Get back to ba-
sics, big guy. Be your old amusing self
again. After all, you are a comedian,
you will always be a comedian, and
comedians certainly can't survive on
looks alone. You have to be funny -
that's the key.
Other recent releases:
"Apollo 13" - Opie Cunningham
directs this blockbuster classic in which
Forrest Gump leaves Lieutenant Dan
on the ground, gets on the space shuttle
where he meets that guy from "Foot-
loose" (most certainly his favorite
movie), and heads for the moon. Unfor-
tunately, he doesn't stay there.
"Congo" - Lots o' monkeys. Lots
o' science guys. Lots o' problems. Lots
"Crimson Tide" - Gene Hackman
and Denzel command the U.S.S. Ala-
In pursuing a mildly successful film career, Billy Crystal (shown here in his 1992
box-office flop "Mr. Saturday Night") forgot what he's best at - clever comedy
bama through the Cold War and after-
wards. Of course, in the movie's work-
ing copy, the submarine was called the
U.S.S. Michigan and the title was
"Toomer." But producers felt it just
didn't have that rrr-ing! to it.
"Dolores Claiborne" - Still suffer-
ingfrom stifling menopausal hot flashes,
bitchy Kathy Bates kills off a few more
people in another movie based on a
Stephen King book. Here, she is chased
all over Maine by smarmy detective
Christopher "Von Trapp" Plummer who
wants to nab her when she sings an
offensive rendition of"Do Re Mi," com-
plete with spitting and crotch-grabbing.
"Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home"
- The incredibly true adventures of
one killer whale who just simply can't
keep out of prison. So this time he bites
Johnny C. and F. Lee to get him au.
And Al Dershowitz goes on "Rolopd"
to tell us all that Willy's initial trial was
"Johnny Mnemonic" - Keanu. One
of the few actors whose first name ia
bona fide tongue twister (say it Dv
times fast) plays some futuristic ii9
who has a CD-ROM drive in his head.
Unfortunately, nothing can boost this
actor's - or this movie's - intelli'
gence level. Hejest ain't gotsthe smarts,
and neither does the script.
"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers'
The Movie" - Yeah yeah yeah ... Go
go, live action Power Rangers -
straight to the trash heap. Oh, and your
movie sucks, too!
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