Monday 26 February 2018

Movie Reviews: The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)

A limp comedy, The Beverly Hillbillies contains maybe two laughs and a lot of wasted talent.

In rural Arkansas, massive oilfields are discovered on the swamplands owned by widower Jed Clampett (Jim Varney). He sells the land for $1 billion, and moves with his tomboy daughter Elly May (Erika Eleniak), doofus nephew Jethro (Diedrich Bader) and crusty mother-in-law Daisy May (Cloris Leachman) to a massive mansion in Beverly Hills.

Banker Milburn Drysdale (Dabney Coleman) and his assistant Jane Hathaway (Lily Tomlin) quickly swing into action to ensure that the Clampetts remain good clients. As a result Jethro gets an undeserved position at the bank, and Jane attempts to satisfy Jed's quest for a new wife. Meanwhile, bank employee Tyler (Rob Schneider) tries to plot a way to get his hands on Jed's fortune, and sends in his girlfriend Laura Jackson (Lea Thompson) disguised as a French teacher of manners to infiltrate the family.

Based on the 1960s television sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies is a dumb exercise in milking a familiar property well past the expiry date. Directed by Penelope Spheeris with a script mushed together by four writers but containing barely any ideas, the film is devoid of charm, humour and wit. Instead the attempted jokes remain at the sub-juvenile level, the antics maybe somewhat funny for the sheltered sub-10 year old set.

The entirety of what passes as plot is made up of bankers Drysdale, Hathaway and Tyler tripping over each other to either suck-up to the Clampetts or steal from them. The family are stock rural simpletons straight from the hinterlands as imagined for 1960s television comedy, and what may have been funny on the small screen in decades past - granny totes a shotgun! daughter is an animal loving tomboy! - has long since gone stale. Acknowledging the pathetic bankruptcy of actual ideas, Spheeris throws in some Benny Hill-style fast-forwarded group chase idiocy.

Respected actors Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman, Dabney Coleman and Lea Thompson generally embarrass themselves with varying degrees of over-acting, and are joined by braindead comedy regulars Varney and Schneider, who are more comfortable in these kinds of gutters. Dolly Parton, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Buddy Ebsen contribute cameos.

The only good thing that can be said about The Beverly Hillbillies is that it is mercifully short. The film comes and goes in about 90 minutes, leaving nothing behind except the stink of a talentless money grab.

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