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.
Blake Edwards‘s parody of/tribute to slapstick comedy is obscenely overlong and insistently hammy, but so what? It’s highly inventive, self-conscious camp, made in 1965, well before the genre wore itself out in superciliousness. The story centers on a New York to Paris road race (think about that for a while) between the Great Leslie, a white-suited, teeth-flashing Tony Curtis, and the unscrupulous Professor Fate— Jack Lemmon in a Mack Sennett mustache. Very funny; creatively vulgar. 160 min.
A musical remake (1932) of Ernst Lubitsch‘s silent The Marriage Circle, directed from a detailed Lubitsch plan by George Cukor. Maurice Chevalier is a doctor happily married to Jeanette MacDonald but temporarily distracted by Genevieve Tobin. Every so often, Chevalier interrupts the story to ask the audience for advice with the plaintive “What Would You Do?”—demonstrating that you could get away with things in a comedy that most people still won’t accept in a drama. Very funny and very highly recommended.
With most of the humor predicated on homosexual panic, this Dustin Hoffman drag comedy plays like the reactionary inverse of Blake Edwards‘s Victor/Victoria: it’s a film about sex roles that upholds and solidifies strict polarities, styled as safe situation comedy rather than Edwards’s rousing, vulgar farce. Just as Kramer vs. Kramer carried the subliminal point that fathers make the best mothers, so does Tootsie (1982) suggest that men — given the chance — make the best women. As an unsuccessful actor who lands a female part on a soap opera, Hoffman learns a firsthand lesson in chauvinism, an experience that allows him to lecture his costars — Jessica Lange, Teri Garr — on women’s rights. Sydney Pollack‘s professional direction gives the choppy, errant material the appearance of smoothness and integrity, and there are several solid laughs and some excellent supporting performances. But this is a film to be wary of. With Charles Durning and Bill Murray. 116 min.