Sunday, January 3, 2010

All of Me

(Carl Reiner, 1984)
You can understand why Steve Martin wanted to escape from under his crazed hipster act and upgrade to romantic leading man status. But this career goal should have been sat on for one more movie, because what's wrong with what on paper must have been a farce is that Martin is all it has. To get to his brilliant half-possessed business in the second act you have to endure a painfully miscalculated first half hour where Martin stands there reacting to all manner of silly goings-on around him, and gets all the laughs anyway. It was smart to push Martin's flailing antics up front, but the decision to do this by lowering everyone else's energy level creates great dips whenever the supporting players get their turns. Lily Tomlin's deadpan snoot routine as the dead heiress is remarkably lifeless and miscalculated - stuck in her mirror, not once does she draw a smile. Aside from Richard Libertini's dum-dum swami, the rest of the movie is an infestation of straight men, often at direct odds with the needs of the script. When, for instance, they underplay the whirlwind-of-wacky-reversals climax, they are burdened with the expectation of making sense, which is a non-starter. The absolute low point in directorial judgment is allowing Steve to go "Excuuuuse me!" at Tomlin; pretty desperate.

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