By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: These twins are extraterrestrials.
Based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel ‘Slapstick’ the story centers on a Caleb and Lutetia (Jerry Lewis, Madeline Kahn) who are a rich and famous couple that give birth to deformed and ugly twins named Wilbur and Eliza (also played by Lewis and Kahn). The couple immediately disowns the children and has them put away into a home run by Sylvester (Marty Feldman) who acts as the children’s caretaker. Unbeknownst to anyone is the fact that twins are actually aliens implanted inside Lutetia by a race of super intelligent beings from a faraway planet as a way to help earthlings solve all of their problems. When the twins put their cone sized heads together they are super smart, but when they are separated they are dumb making everyone believe that they are mentally deficient and of no use to anyone.
The biggest problem with this disastrous attempt at a movie is the approach. Director Steven Paul who ironically made his acting debut in Happy Birthday, Wanda June, which was another Vonnegut book adaptation brought to the screen seems to have no idea what type of audience he is aiming for. The humor shifts wildly between child-like farce to satirical jabs with nothing in-between, which will alienate both adults and children alike. The grownups will find it incoherent and silly while the children will be frightened by the ugly visuals as well as the cold, callous nature of the characters and plot. There is also a strange side story that make no sense and deals with miniaturized Chinese men who are the size of a human thumb and fly around in a spaceship resembling an eggroll while trying to make contact with the twins in order for them the help make a deal on the sale of gravity?!!!!
Lewis and Kahn are relatively amusing as the snotty couple, but as the twins they are downright embarrassing. The scene where they have a food fight while yammering incessant baby talk is a degrading sight and a career low for both performers. I know Lewis has the reputation of doing some really silly, inane stuff, but even this should’ve been beneath him.
The eclectic supporting cast helps a little and the only reason that I’m giving it 2 points. Feldman is genuinely amusing and it’s great seeing Jim Backus in one of his last acting roles playing the President of the United States and hearing this predominantly kid-friendly performer utter the word shit…twice!
I have never read the novel from which this is based, but have heard that it is far superior, which isn’t a surprise. I’d be interested to know what Vonnegut, who apparently wrote the lyrics to a song sung by Kahn in the film, but then later cut, thought of this catastrophe. Some bad films are fun because you can make jokes about as it goes along, but this thing is so utterly bizarre from beginning to end that instead you sit in a stupor throughout and it becomes a surreal experience instead.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: December 1, 1982
Runtime: 1Hour 22Minutes
Studio: International Film Marketing
Director: Steven Paul
Available: VHS, Amazon Instant Video