By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Kid brother moves in.
Buddy Baker (Tony Bill) has just turned 21 and is looking to get out into the world by moving in with his older brother Alan. Alan (Frank Sinatra) is living the bachelor’s dream by residing in a luxurious apartment in the heart of Manhattan while entertaining wild parties and a wide array of lovely ladies. Their parents (Lee J. Cobb, Molly Picon) do not feel that Alan and his lifestyle will be a good influence on Buddy and forbid him from doing it, but he does it anyways, which drives the father to disown his sons and cut out all communications with them.
This was the first Neil Simon play to be turned into a movie and it was loosely based on Neil’s relationship with his older brother Danny. For the most part it is talky and stagy while lacking Simon’s patented one-liners and humorous exchanges. It also has for some bizarre reason a musical number that comes out of nowhere at the 40-minute mark where Sinatra sings the film’s title tune and then just as quickly it goes back to being a straight comedy, which came off as jarring, out-of-place and misguided.
I did enjoy the film’s set design, which got nominated for an Academy Award, especially the interiors of Alan’s swanky apartment. However, I was confused why Buddy had to sleep in the same room as Alan as I would think such a large and fancy place would have more than just one bedroom. The movie also strongly implies that Alan is having sexual trysts with his lady friends, which would then imply that he must have a king sized bed somewhere, so why are only twin beds shown? He also has five telephones in the living room, which seemed beyond absurd and made me feel that if he had purchased a few less phones then he might’ve been able to afford a double bed.
Sinatra’s presence is the film’s weakest link as this type of comedy doesn’t mesh well with his otherwise caustic personality. He was too old for the part as he was not only pushing 50, but also only 4 years younger than Cobb who plays his father. I didn’t like Jill St. John’s ditzy character either as she was too dumb to be believable, which was not only painfully unfunny, but stereotypical and insulting to women.
I did like Tony Bill in his film debut and his nicely understated performance helps keep the film balanced. Dan Blocker is also great as a jealous husband and Molly Picon is a scene stealer as the mother. You can even spot Dean Martin as a wino in an uncredited cameo.
The fact that Alan doesn’t want to give up his swinging lifestyle despite the pressures from his girlfriend Connie (Barbara Rush) is the story’s one and only redeeming quality. I could never understand why a single man, who’s enjoying the bachelorhood at its most ideal, such as it is portrayed here, would want to suddenly throw it all for the married life. Most of the of films from that era with a similar theme would portray it as simply being the ‘magic of love’, but here the character is much, much more resistant to the idea and doesn’t change his ways until having a life altering event where he sees things from a different perspective, which made more sense.
Sinatra fans may want to check this out, but it is far from his best stuff and although the material is agreeable it is only slightly engaging and barely worth the time.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: June 5, 1963
Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes
Director: Bud Yorkin
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video