Tag Archives: Henry Gibson

Switching Channels (1988, Ted Kotcheff)

In Switching Channels, Kotcheff attempts two styles he’s inept at directing—madcap and slapstick. He’s got Ned Beatty, who can act in both those styles, and Beatty does okay. He’s not any good, but one can’t hold the film’s failings against him.

But for his other buffoon, Kotcheff uses Christopher Reeve. The audience is supposed to dislike Reeve because he’s vain, wealthy and a nice guy. One of the biggest laughs in the film is supposed to be at Reeve’s expense, when he’s in an acrophobia-induced fit. Reeve’s got some decent moments (particularly at the beginning of the film), which makes it all the more unfortunate.

The hero of the film is Burt Reynolds, who doesn’t so much give a performance as audition for his subsequent sitcom. He and Reeve are rivals for Kathleen Turner’s affections… though not really. Turner and Reynolds have zero chemistry, making any romantic possibilities laughable.

If the film continued where it opened, with Reeve and Turner meeting and romancing in a tranquil Montréal resort, Switching Channels probably would’ve worked. Turner’s good. She’s just not the film’s protagonist and so, when it pretends she’s important to it, the film fails.

The film—and Kotcheff—do her and Reeve the most disservice.

Though set in Chicago, it’s a very Canadian one. City hall is apparently in an office park.

There’s some good supporting work from Henry Gibson and George Newbern’s endearing as Reynolds’s flunky.

Between Reynolds’s non-acting and Kotcheff’s awkwardness, it doesn’t have a chance.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Ted Kotcheff; screenplay by Jonathan Reynolds, based on a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; director of photography, François Protat ; edited by Thom Noble; music by Michel Legrand; production designer, Anne Pritchard; produced by Martin Ransohoff; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Kathleen Turner (Christy Colleran), Burt Reynolds (John L. Sullivan IV), Christopher Reeve (Blaine Bingham), Ned Beatty (Roy Ridnitz), Henry Gibson (Ike Roscoe), George Newbern (Siegenthaler), Al Waxman (Berger), Ken James (Warden Terwilliger), Barry Flatman (Zaks), Ted Simonett (Tillinger), Anthony Sherwood (Carvalho), Joe Silver (Mordsini) and Charles Kimbrough (The Governor).


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Innerspace (1987, Joe Dante)

It’s always a surprise when I remember Innerspace wasn’t a hit (it was also the first movie I ever saw as a letterboxed VHS–it was letterbox only). It’s easily Dante’s most populist work–I don’t think a single Dante “touch,” except for Dick Miller, shows up in the film until the appearance of Kevin McCarthy. Before, it’s all general action comedy sci-fi stuff.

Martin Short quickly establishes himself as essential to the film (his first scene comes a little bit earlier than the narrative needs him to be introduced). He shows up right before Dennis Quaid gets miniaturized, but that sequence is relatively long and detailed. Dante doesn’t worry about giving the audience a lot of immediate information, which might have been another problem.

Once Quaid and Short do get together, Innerspace moves without any slowing. When there is a scene–between Short and Meg Ryan–about taking a breather, it gets interrupted. It’s never a forced pace. In a lot of ways, Innerspace has Dante’s most professional direction. He never goes wild, but he never even hints at a misstep.

Short’s outstanding, Quaid and Ryan are both good.

Great Jerry Goldsmith score too.

Dante’s completely–and, unfortunately, wrongly–confident an audience will be comfortable with so many genres mixing at once. Until the end, there’s not a single sci-fi oriented action sequence–there’s lots of action comedy scenes, as it would be impossible to take Short seriously during any of them.

It’s one of Dante’s best.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Dante; screenplay by Jeffrey Boam and Chip Proser, based on a story by Proser; director of photography, Andrew Laszlo; edited by Kent Beyda; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, James H. Spencer; produced by Michael Finnell; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Dennis Quaid (Lt. Tuck Pendleton), Martin Short (Jack Putter), Meg Ryan (Lydia Maxwell), Kevin McCarthy (Victor Eugene Scrimshaw), Fiona Lewis (Dr. Margaret Canker), Vernon Wells (Mr. Igoe), Robert Picardo (The Cowboy), Wendy Schaal (Wendy), Harold Sylvester (Pete Blanchard), William Schallert (Dr. Greenbush), Henry Gibson (Mr. Wormwood), John Hora (Ozzie Wexler), Mark L. Taylor (Dr. Niles) and Kevin Hooks (Duane).


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The ‘burbs (1989, Joe Dante)

Until The 'burbs gets around to actually having to pay off on its premise–the strange new neighbors are really serial killers–it’s quite good. There’s no way the third act pay off can deliver and the film’s quality takes a number of hits in the last half hour or so. Olsen’s script is, technically, at fault… but it’s hard to think of how the narrative could have unfolded and not had problems.

What the film does have, even with the last act problems, is some of Dante’s most enthusiastic work. The film’s perfectly casted–I counted three times the actors were trying not to laugh during a scene–and he gets these great performances. Olsen’s script sets up these fine characters, Dante and the cast are able to turn them into something even better… then the script abandons them. At one point, Carrie Fisher just disappears. Instead of figuring out how to incorporate her (or even just keep her around), Olsen sends her away. Coincidentally, Fisher disappears about the time the film hits the bumps.

Tom Hanks is very good in the lead. He manages not to get overshadowed by Bruce Dern and Rick Ducommun, who are a lot wackier. Wendy Schaal’s good as Dern’s wife (she too disappears though) and Brother Theodore is hilarious as one of the villains. Corey Feldman is a tad broad… and looks a little old for a teenager.

Amazing Jerry Goldsmith score.

With its marvelous Dante direction, The 'burbs is almost a success.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Dante; written by Dana Olsen; director of photography, Robert M. Stevens; edited by Marshall Harvey; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, James H. Spencer; produced by Larry Brezner and Michael Finnell; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Tom Hanks (Ray Peterson), Bruce Dern (Lt. Mark Rumsfield), Carrie Fisher (Carol Peterson), Rick Ducommun (Art Weingartner), Corey Feldman (Ricky Butler), Wendy Schaal (Bonnie Rumsfield), Henry Gibson (Dr. Werner Klopek), Brother Theodore (Uncle Reuben Klopek), Courtney Gains (Hans Klopek) and Gale Gordon (Walter Seznick).


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The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981, Joel Schumacher)

I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to properly discuss The Incredible Shrinking Woman. It’s an experience–Ned Beatty was in Network and he appeared in this one? Sorry. Anyway, according the IMDb, the movie might have made money–in fact, it might have even been a hit. I always assumed it was an enormous failure, but if it was a success… well, first, I’m very confused. Second–there is no second. I’m still perplexed by the idea The Incredible Shrinking Woman was a hit.

Apparently, there were some really bad comedies in the late 1970s and early 1980s and Shrinking Woman is one of them. It’s a gimmick comedy, but the idea of Lily Tomlin shrinking isn’t even the gimmick–her adventures at one foot tall are pretty tame–wow, a talk show. Instead, the gimmick is Lily Tomlin appearing in multiple roles. Besides the main character, she also plays the main character’s best friend. Or the neighbor lady who annoys her until she’s shrinking, then she relies on. The movie doesn’t really have character relationships–much less development–so you have to kind of guess what it’s trying to say.

But Tomlin’s bored with her roles. She’s visibly phoning in her performance on both of them, obtuse to the goings on–it’d be hard for her to be engaged with the material, but still… she’s sleepwalking through her own vanity project.

The script’s atrocious. I don’t think it got a single laugh out of me, only because it’s condemning materialistic American culture–but it’s doing so by making everyone emotionally removed. It’s impossible to care about the characters, much less their problems. They don’t even have real problems, because Beatty and John Glover aren’t just regular businessmen, they’re about to take over the world. It’s absurdist humor without much humor.

Glover mugs through his performance, which means he doesn’t appear to be exerting or embarrassing himself. Beatty doesn’t get away clean though. His character is terribly written and he’s in it a lot.

Charles Grodin plays Tomlin’s husband and his part in the narrative is one of the bigger defects. He kind of becomes the protagonist for a while, but not long enough for it to matter, which means it was all a waste of time–and Shrinking Woman is a less than ninety-minute movie. If it has to tread water to make its running time, there’s something wrong.

Joel Schumacher–making his theatrical, directorial debut–has a few good shots. It’s pretty bland, but the sets look cheap and unfinished, so what was he going to do. He starts it–relatively–strong; I was surprised when the mediocrity set in.

I’d heard of Shrinking Woman many, many years ago. Maybe even when I was a kid–probably then, because I still would have wanted to see it because of the title. Bad idea.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joel Schumacher; screenplay by Jane Wagner, based on a novel by Richard Matheson; director of photography, Bruce Logan; edited by Jeff Gourson; music by Suzanne Ciani; produced by Hank Moonjean; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Lily Tomlin (Pat Kramer / Judith Beasley), Charles Grodin (Vance Kramer), Ned Beatty (Dan Beame), Henry Gibson (Dr. Eugene Nortz), Elizabeth Wilson (Dr. Ruth Ruth), Mark Blankfield (Rob), Maria Smith (Concepcion), Pamela Bellwood (Sandra Dyson) and John Glover (Tom Keller).


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