Director – Frank Tashlin
Starring – Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Dorothy Malone, and Shirley MacLaine
So I’m gonna try (and more than likely fail) to review this movie without writing it off as simply a farcical exercise in showcasing Jerry Lewis’ one character that he does lumped together with a few opportunities for Dean Martin to sing. Frankly it was more of a talent show than it was a movie, but the question remains…is it worth it? No. No, is the answer.
The real difficulty with trying to keep this review about the higher brow aspects of a film like this, is that it’s really only about the momentary gag. Each bit in the film doesn’t build it self upon a story or even upon a theme, but simply builds itself on the last joke. Once the scene ends, it basically starts from scratch with only the loose frame-work of the Martin and Lewis characters being roommates. This creates a rather herky-jerky, start-stop style for the story, and makes if very difficult to treat it otherwise.
Oh sure there is a tiny progression in story concerning the love interests, but it’s really more so Dino can sing silky love songs and Jerry Lewis can play embarrassed, and awkward with his famous, functionally retarded character. Each scene of this talent show technically contains the same characters, but none of them are bound by the rules of reality. Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself here…the story.
The story is simple, two guys live together in an apartment. One is an artist that sings and the other is…a sidekick? I’m not sure what the other one is really. It doesn’t matter, because the artist is no good as an artist, he would rather sing and try to woo his neighbor from a few flights down, and the side kick is simply there to eat paint chips and ham it up at every opportunity. Half of the film is taken up by the kooky (I say kooky in a condescending way, not in a raucous and fun sort of way.) sight gags and slap stickery, which leaves the other half to develop the love story with the neighbor.
That neighbor coincidentally has a roommate as well, so it’s a perfect double date situation, except for the fact that the fantastic Shirley MacLaine is stuck with Jerry Lewis as a romantic counterpart. The rest of the story involves something with getting a job at a comic book publisher, a singing and dancing number, brainwashing, and secret agents looking to get the code to some missiles out of the head of Jerry Lewis. So…not too much.
For all the grousing that I’ve done up to this point, the movie wasn’t truly terrible. I was able to watch it in one sitting without turning it off, I paid attention the whole time, and most importantly (I guess) I remember what happened despite seeing it about a month ago. That being said, it wasn’t worth my time in doing all of those things either, rather the movie just sort of stuck in my brain, unwanted and unbidden. The acting, story and comedy was all rather second, if not third-rate. Save for one scene, the bathtub/phone call scene, the film was never able to get a laugh out of me, and I only laughed during the aforementioned scene because it seemed so ludicrous that Jerry Lewis would not only just walk in on Dean Martin taking a bath, but that it didn’t seem to bother Dino in the least. Who knows, perhaps it was commonplace in the 50’s to bathe openly under the scrutiny of your bizarre man-child of a roommate.
As far as cinematography and presentation goes, don’t expect anything dazzling or innovative and you won’t be disappointed. Everything was par for the course for movies of this timeframe, with the possible exception of there being a crossover of the music and movie worlds, but that’s only really speculation, and now that I think about it, it’s most definitely not true.
Either way, all of this amounts to another film on this list that by all rights doesn’t really deserve to be here. It’s almost like someone chose by throwing darts at a list of movies that were made, that’s it. Not movies that were contenders, just movies that survived the act of being created. If it’s a musical, or comedy that you’re looking for, you might do better to look elsewhere.