“What’s Up, Doc?”: Cinema Rewind

Posted: May 17th, 2020 | Filed under: Cinema | No Comments »

Another in a series of short reviews, in which I go back and watch a movie again, then post a reconsideration. 

OK, so, this time around, that’s a lie. I start all posts of this series with something like that, sort of as a ploy so you might explore other entries on my site.

Truth here is I never before viewed the Peter Bogdanovitch-directed follow up to heralded “The Last Picture Show.”

I was directed to this comedy by a feature in the New York Times, where critics Manohlo Dargis and A.O. Scott suggest a film to watch over the weekend, then solicit comments in the NYT Movie section.

Because this film is meant to induce laughter, and nothing calls for some humor like our current situation, I bit. I knew enough about the Barbra Streisand/ Ryan O’Neal flick to know going in it’s silly.

Silly can be good.

And silliness is the overriding, perhaps overwhelming character trait of this caper/ love story set in San Francisco. Buck Henry wrote it, and anybody familiar with his resumé knows he can get to the absurd fairly easily. And Bogdanovich, long an aficionado of the history of movies, longed to recreated a Screwball comedy.

Think, oh, “Bringing Up Baby.” With more than a dash of Tartuffe. And Keystone Kops. And razzmatazz machine gun dialog, at least from Streisand, who is a motormouth here.

Does the story matter? No, not really.

Think four plaid briefcases that are identical, one with underwear, one with sonorous rocks, one with top secret documents, one filled with jewelry. And a bunch of people thrown together with them on the same floor of the same hotel. Mix ups ensue.

Think Madeline Kahn, before she hit her stride, blossoming in “Blazing Saddles,” and “Young Frankenstein.” Streisand and O’Neal falling in love, while making fun of previous iconic roles. Car chases. Tom foolery.

Apparently a lot of folks love the movie. A lot.

I found it a might forced. It tried just too hard.

But, its a piffle of a diversion that got me through another night of social distancing.

Oh yea, I loved Kenneth Mars as an imperious musicologist with a smile-inducing accent of unknown origin. Though, he, like Ms. Kahn, hits full stride a couple years later as Insppector Kemp in “Young Frankenstein.”

— c d kaplan

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