Unsettled by his experience in World War I, Lake Forest cutup Bill Murray resigns the shallow materialism of his friends and fiancee and sets out on the narrow path to spiritual enlightenment. This intensely embarrassing film clearly has great personal value for Murray (the real-life parallels become chillingly explicit when a subplot introduces a dope- and booze-addicted friend whom Murray is unable to save), but if the motivations are authentic, the result is anything but. The screenplay (cowritten by Murray and director John Byrum) shies away from specifying Murray’s spiritual achievements; instead of maturing, the character simply becomes more smug and condescending, and the movie’s ultimate subject is his fatuous self-satisfaction in the face of the other characters’ carefully delineated weaknesses. Not one moment in the film works the way it was plainly meant to. With Theresa Russell, Catherine Hicks, and Denholm Elliott. PG-13, 128 min.
Even Neil Simon fans (and they do exist, believe it or not) will probably be bummed out by this stunningly unfunny 1976 parody of detective films, with Truman Capote, Nancy Walker, Alec Guinness, Maggie Smith, Elsa Lanchester, Estelle Winwood, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, James Coco, and David Niven, none of whom has much to do. Simon is the Sisyphus of gag writers, endlessly repeating gags and situations that were barely funny the first time. Peter Falk nearly saves the picture with a funny Bogart impression, no mean feat in the midst of the Humphreymania that reigned at the time of the film’s release.