Saturday 8 July 2023

Movie Review: The Comic (1969)

Genre: Hollywood Dramedy
Director: Carl Reiner
Starring: Dick Van Dyke, Michelle Lee, Mickey Rooney
Running Time: 94 minutes

Synopsis: Upon his death in 1969, former Hollywood star comedian Billy Bright (Dick Van Dyke) narrates his own story. He arrived in Hollywood during the silent era and established himself a star of slapstick comedies. Billy forges a lifelong friendship with fellow comedian Cockeye (Mickey Rooney), marries co-star Mary Gibson (Michelle Lee), and creates a successful production company. The husband-and-wife couple star in a series of hit movies, but infidelity, the arrival of talkies, and changing public taste threaten the good times.

What Works Well: Loosely based on the career trajectories of Buster Keaton-type stars, the second half evolves into a touching drama of loneliness and regret, as the elderly Billy lives out his years as a long-forgotten star. Van Dyke does his best work evoking faded glory hanging on to pride, able to meet the moment when advertisement work offers a flicker of former dignity, but now susceptible to a gold digger's crass ambition.

What Does Not Work As Well: Director and co-writer Carl Reiner struggles to pad the flimsy material, and the first half is oversaturated with black and white reels of juvenile slapstick representing Billy's peak achievements. Here Van Dyke is at his over-cooked worst, aiming no higher than the clumsy clown level. Elsewhere, Billy's adoration of Mary is never provided the oxygen to blossom before he resorts to destructive affairs.

Conclusion: Ironically, this comic is better when he abandons laughs and embraces pathos.

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  1. My problem with this film: Reiner/Rooney/ Van Dyke were NEVER funny.

    1. Comedy tastes definitely change over the years. Those endless b&w shorts cluttering this movie would have been hilarious in their era.


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