By Richard Winters
My Rating: 0 out of 10
4-Word Review: Crazies fight city hall.
Dibley (Gabe Kaplan) who suffers from unpredictable memory loss, Swaboda (Alex Karras) who thinks his mother is still alive and with him at all times even when she really isn’t and Walter (Robert Klein) who has a split personality that can turn him from a gangster to Bette Davis at any given moment decide to steal an army tank and use it to force the mayor (Arthur Rosenberg) to pay for a new car when their old one gets damaged after driving through one of the city’s potholes. They get Dibley’s girlfriend Carol (Susan Clark) to go along with the scheme and in the process get caught up with a robbery of an armed bankroll truck.
If it was possible to give this thing a negative number rating I would and I seriously considered it, but decided to be generous and give it a 0 even though this thing has to be one of the dumbest comedies ever made. I’ve seen a lot of them, but at least they usually had one or two funny gags even if the rest fell flat, but this one has none. The humor is at a 6-year-old’s level and is painfully stupid from beginning to end without a shred of believability. It also features what has to be one of the slowest, most drawn out and boring car chases ever to be put on film
Mental illness is no laughing matter and the way it gets portrayed here could be considered offensive. Screenwriter Tony Kenrick, who also wrote the novel from which this film is based as well as director Peter Bonerz have clearly not done any research on the topic and portray those afflicted with it in the most sophomoric and benign way possible. In reality these characters would not have been able to hold down regular jobs like they do here and even if they did they would have been quickly fired once their mental problems became easily apparent. They would also most likely be on medications and even institutionalized instead of freely gallivanting around and only seeing an inept shrink (portrayed by Paul Stewart in a very clichéd send-up of Sigmund Freud) once a week who seems to have no insight on how to help them.
The ‘normal’ characters are just as annoyingly stupid. When the trio decide they want to steal a tank from a local plant that makes them they have Kaplan pretend to be from a ‘top secret’ government organization that tricks one of the employees, which is played here by director Bonerz, into believing that his company is secretly selling the tanks to the Soviets without him ever demanding any evidence or proof.
Kaplan may have been a great stand-up comedian and in recent years a good poker player, but as an actor he is one of the worst. In fact I always felt he was the weakest link in the Welcome Back Kotter show as he always said his lines like he was reading them off of cue cards while constantly conveying a sheepish grin and here he is no better. Former football player Karras and fellow comedian Klein are equally weak. Only Clark is good, but why she would choose to do this after appearing in so much critical acclaimed stuff during the 70’s is a mystery, but she most likely did it to stay close to her then husband Karras and still manages to look great in a bikini.
If the filmmakers really thought that the American public would find this funny then they are the ones suffering from mental illness as only a mentally ill person could possibly find it amusing and if you watch it all the way through you more than likely will become one.
My Rating: 0 out of 10
Released: August 7, 1981
Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes
Director: Peter Bonerz
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video