Tag Archives: Harold Ramis

Baby Boom (1987, Charles Shyer)

The first half of Baby Boom is this incredibly efficient story about career woman Diane Keaton deciding she wants to be a mom to a baby she inherits. Is inherit the right word? Probably not, but Keaton’s character can’t figure out how to change a diaper (though she can later milk a cow on the first try) so I’m in fine company. Boyfriend Harold Ramis–in a glorified cameo, which is kind of neat on its own–Harold Ramis being in a glorified cameo–isn’t too interested in settling down and there are so many work problems, what will Keaton do?

Baby Boom, written by director Shyers and Nancy Meyers, sort of implies it wants to answer hard questions about gender expectations and the workplace, but then–with only forty minutes left–Sam Shepard shows up with his snaggletooth and some floppy hair and the world changes. Somewhere in this mix–which has two montage sequences to get out of the boring narrative moments (and they’re actually the second and third montages, there’s one earlier)–the whole Baby part falls away and the Boom comes in.

See, Baby Boom isn’t about Keaton discovering how motherhood fulfills her or even about her relationship with the baby. Twins Kristina Kennedy and Michelle Kennedy do fine, though I really hope they used a doll when Keaton’s comically carrying her around like a suitcase. But the funniest stuff with the baby? It’s when she’s terrorizing Harold Ramis. In his glorified cameo.

James Spader, Sam Wanamaker and Pat Hingle are the business guys who just aren’t sure Keaton can hack it as a career woman. Spader’s a great sleaze but he gets no material here. Hingle’s part’s real thin too. Wanamaker ought to have more (as Keaton’s champion and mentor) but he too gets a weak part. Baby Boom is kind of lazy.

Bill Conti’s smooth jazz score gets annoying pretty fast, with no standouts except maybe the theme and even the end credits ruin it. William A. Fraker’s photography is fine until Keaton gets to Vermont; he does the New York City stuff fine, but Vermont is just too stagy. Shyer’s direction’s indistinct as well. His closeups are weak, the reshoots are obvious. Maybe the coolest part about it is how the second unit shots of New York City don’t do any of the standards. They do come with some annoying Conti music though.

Keaton’s good. The part’s a little too thin not to have a director pushing the film further. And, dang, if Sam Shepard isn’t charming.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Charles Shyer; written by Nancy Meyers and Shyer; director of photography, William A. Fraker; edited by Lynzee Klingman; music by Bill Conti; production designer, Jeffrey Howard; produced by Meyers; released by United Artists.

Starring Diane Keaton (J.C. Wiatt), Sam Shepard (Dr. Jeff Cooper), Harold Ramis (Steven Buchner), Kristina Kennedy & Michelle Kennedy (Elizabeth), Sam Wanamaker (Fritz Curtis), James Spader (Ken Arrenberg) and Pat Hingle (Hughes Larrabee).


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Caddyshack (1980, Harold Ramis)

What’s the funniest thing in Caddyshack? Bill Murray is a good first choice, Rodney Dangerfield, even Ted Knight is hilarious, but Chevy Chase actually wins out. He doesn’t have as many awesome scenes as Murray, but Murray’s got a couple mundane ones. Chase–who opens the movie with lead Michael O’Keefe–is fantastic throughout all of his scenes, even when he’s background.

The busyness in Caddyshack is one of its great strengths. Cindy Morgan’s temptress is a lot funnier when she’s reacting to the main action then when she’s taking the lead in a scene. The script doesn’t seem to know what to do with her and Ramis will cut to her for a reaction shot and she’s got nothing. But when she’s watching Dangerfield go wild, for example, she’s awesome.

Technically, the film’s far from perfect. Ramis’s composition runs hot and dry–it seems like he did a better job directing actors than framing shots. Cinematographer Stevan Larner probably doesn’t help the situation. The film lacks any visual distinctiveness. William C. Carruth’s editing is sometimes weak as well.

Great Johnny Mandel score though.

Other cast standouts include Brian Doyle-Murray, Lois Kibbee and Henry Wilcoxon. Doyle-Murray (one of the writers) has the most to do and he’s fantastic. Oh, and Scott Colomby as O’Keefe’s nemesis. He’s real good.

O’Keefe is so-so as the lead; he’s likable enough, which seems to be all the script asks of him.

Caddyshack is funny stuff. Chase and Murray are both awesome.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Harold Ramis; written by Brian Doyle-Murray, Ramis and Douglas Kenney; director of photography, Stevan Larner; edited by William C. Carruth; music by Johnny Mandel; production designer, Stan Jolley; produced by Kenney; released by Orion Pictures.

Starring Michael O’Keefe (Danny Noonan), Chevy Chase (Ty Webb), Ted Knight (Judge Elihu Smails), Rodney Dangerfield (Al Czervik), Sarah Holcomb (Maggie O’Hooligan), Cindy Morgan (Lacey Underall), Albert Salmi (Mr. Noonan), Scott Colomby (Tony D’Annunzio), Dan Resin (Dr. Beeper), Elaine Aiken (Mrs. Noonan), Henry Wilcoxon (The Bishop), Lois Kibbee (Mrs. Smails), Brian Doyle-Murray (Lou Loomis), Ann Ryerson (Grace), Thomas A. Carlin (Sandy McFiddish), John F. Barmon Jr. (Spaulding Smails), Peter Berkrot (Angie D’Annunzio), Hamilton Mitchell (Motormouth), Scott Powell (Gatsby), Ann Crilley (Suki), Cordis Heard (Wally), Brian McConnachie (Drew Scott) and Bill Murray (Carl Spackler).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | CADDYSHACK (1980) / CADDYSHACK II (1988).

Caddyshack II (1988, Allan Arkush)

Now it makes sense–Rodney Dangerfield was originally going to come back for Caddyshack II, but then fell out over script disputes and Jackie Mason came in, persona in hand, to fill in. I kept wondering who writers Harold Ramis and Peter Torokvei envisioned in the lead role while writing the script.

My history with Caddyshack II is probably more amusing than the movie itself (not really–it’s a dumb movie, but it’s got a bunch of funny stuff in it). When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to see R rated movies, so instead of Caddyshack, I watched Caddyshack II. If I remember the first one correctly, they’re about on par with each other (no pun intended).

What Caddyshack II has going for it is the performances. Mason’s effective and often funny. He’s not a good actor, but he’s doing his schtick and it works. He’s so amusing, it’s believable when Dyan Cannon finds him beguiling. It shouldn’t work–I mean, Dyan Cannon was married to Cary Grant (which may or may not be part of the joke)–but it does.

The movie opens, rather smartly, with its younger cast though. Chynna Phillips, Brian McNamara, Jessica Lundy and Jonathan Silverman are all in the opening scene. I’d forgotten how appealing Silverman could be in his young everyman performances. It’s a solid opening–even after the menacing “An Allan Arkush Movie” credit a few moments before–almost entirely based on Silverman’s appeal, Phillips’s fantastic bitchiness and Lundy’s somewhat disguised warmheartedness. McNamara is okay in these opening scenes, maybe some of his best stuff in the movie, given he’s usually the butt of the jokes.

Throughout the film, these established personas for Phillips, Lundy and Silverman create frequent genial amusement. They never–except maybe Phillips–get the laugh-out-loud jokes, but they’re solid throughout. Silverman went on to some–very measured–success, Phillips did the music thing and Lundy disappeared for a while. The three of them ought to do some kind of a reunion (I think McNamara’s gone on to better performances).

The older actors–Robert Stack, Dina Merrill, Paul Bartel–are fine. Actually, Merrill’s great. Stack’s funny in the “I’m watching Robert Stack do this or that” and Bartel’s solid as always in his small role. He’s funnier rolling his eyes than most people are slipping on banana peels. Cases in point, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Marsha Warfield. Warfield’s the only one in the entire movie I feel bad for–it’s one of her few film credits and it’s a lame performance. It’s stunt casting. Chase is a lot better than Aykroyd and Chase is still terrible–Aykroyd’s beyond bad, constantly upstaged by the animatronic gopher. Admittedly, the gopher effects are pretty good and the little rodent is always getting into amusing situations–but still. Aykroyd bases his whole performance on what someone foolishly thought was a funny voice.

The movie falls apart a little halfway through–there are so many narrative jumps, I wonder what they cut–when Mason turns the golf course into an amusement park… but whatever. It’s not supposed to be good… it’s supposed to make you laugh for ninety minutes and smile afterwards. It probably succeeds.

And the less said about the desperately unfunny Randy Quaid, the better.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Allan Arkush; screenplay by Harold Ramis and Peter Torokvei, based on characters created by Brian Doyle-Murray, Ramis and Douglas Kenney; director of photography, Harry Stradling Jr.; edited by Bernard Gribble; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, William F. Matthews; produced by Neil Canton, Peter Guber and Jon Peters; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jackie Mason (Jack Hartounian), Robert Stack (Chandler Young), Dyan Cannon (Elizabeth), Dina Merrill (Cynthia Young), Jonathan Silverman (Harry), Brian McNamara (Todd Young), Marsha Warfield (Royette), Paul Bartel (Mr. Jamison), Jessica Lundy (Kate), Chynna Phillips (Miffy Young), Randy Quaid (Peter Blunt), Chevy Chase (Ty Webb), Dan Aykroyd (Capt. Tom Everett), Anthony Mockus Sr. (Mr. Pierpont) and Pepe Serna (Carlos).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED ON BASP | CADDYSHACK (1980) / CADDYSHACK II (1988).

The Ice Harvest (2005, Harold Ramis)

In the few reviews of The Ice Harvest I looked at before renting the DVD, the reviewers all called John Cusack’s lawyer character dumb. Watching the film, however, I noticed John Cusack was doing what he always does… playing John Cusack. So, I didn’t really see his character as stupid (I was trying to read so much into those reviews, I was actually questioning what the reviewers must have thought he should do scene to scene–but only for a little while, it got distracting). I queued The Ice Harvest this week because I’d forgotten about it. A film written by Robert Benton and Richard Russo, it’s of a particular pedigree. Harold Ramis seems an odd choice for a director, given I expected the Benton and Russo script to be incredibly quiet… and The Ice Harvest is incredibly quiet. More happens in the first fifteen minutes or so than in the rest of the movie, just because Cusack drives to more places in that time. But Ramis handles it quite beautifully. I was halfway through the film before I noticed just how good of a job he does.

Instead of being a heist at Christmas gone wrong (which is actually The Ref, isn’t it?), The Ice Harvest defines itself in the scenes between Cusack and Oliver Platt as a (quiet) rumination on the state of the American male. It’s almost a modern Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Platt’s excellent, of course, so’s Cusack (playing himself) and the rest of the cast is good. Billy Bob Thorton’s good, with the most laughs in the film. Randy Quaid, Ned Bellamy, Mike Starr, all good. The only problem with The Ice Harvest–besides its lack of focus, which is probably more serious than the following–is Connie Nielsen. Nielsen’s awful. She couldn’t sell shampoo, much less play a femme fatale. Her scenes drag The Ice Harvest to a halt–and at a fast-paced ninety minutes, it’s a hard thing to do. When it started and she showed up and was terrible, I really hoped it wasn’t Connie Nielsen. Maybe the character was just a throwaway, certainly not the third-billed. But the third-billed it was… She practically haunts the whole movie.

Overall, I’m really sorry I waited so long to see The Ice Harvest. I intended to see it in the theater, but never made it. Its quietness amid some really smarmy, loud settings makes it peculiar but still a very worthwhile film. It also has a nice lack of predictability thing going.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Harold Ramis; written by Richard Russo and Robert Benton, based on the novel by Scott Phillips; director of photography, Alar Kivilo; edited by Lee Percy; music by David Kitay; production designer, Patrizia von Brandenstein; produced by Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa; released by Focus Features.

Starring John Cusack (Charlie), Billy Bob Thornton (Vic), Connie Nielsen (Renata), Randy Quaid (Bill Guerrard), Oliver Platt (Pete) and Mike Starr (Roy).


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