I really wish I knew what Arthur Penn was doing directing (and producing) this film. I suppose it’s a follow-up of sorts to Alice’s Restaurant or something. Penn did some great stuff in the 1970s, so seeing him doing a fill-in job (anyone could have directed this film) is kind of strange. Maybe he really likes Penn and Teller or something.
Besides the oddity of Penn directing it, the film’s really got nothing going for it. Turns out Teller’s a good actor. Penn (Jillette, not Arthur) appears not to be, but the film’s paced so you can’t really tell. Caitlin Clarke spends the film doing one bad accent or another and the film never quite can make you believe she’s Penn’s girlfriend. The film showcases a few of their tricks and loosely continues through different tricks, ones either Penn or Teller are playing on the other. After the movie gets going on its path–Penn invites people to kill him and a crazed fan takes the challenge–things go from being mildly amusing to tedious. The film’s from 1989, so maybe it was relying on the viewer being unfamiliar with Penn and Teller beyond late night appearances.
There’s one really annoying black and white sequence, which goes on forever, and some long, drawn-out ominous chase scenes. There are funny ideas throughout, but they’re rarely successfully executed. Arthur Penn didn’t direct any other comedies and it shows. The film has a forced quirkiness about it and only finds its footing in the last moments–if the movie had started with the last scene (not in terms of framing, but tone establishing), it probably would have turned out a lot better.
Directed and produced by Arthur Penn; written by Penn Jillette and Teller; director of photography, Jan Weincke; edited by Jeffrey Wolf; music by Paul Chihara; production designer, John Arnone; released by Lorimar Film Entertainment.
Starring Penn Jillette (Penn), Teller (Teller), Caitlin Clarke (Carlotta), David Patrick Kelly (Fan), Leonardo Cimino (Ernesto) and Celia McGuire (Officer McNamara).