Hardly Working (1981)

hardly working

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Klutz can’t find work.

Bo Hooper (Jerry Lewis) is a circus clown who finds himself out of a job. His sister Claire (Susan Oliver) and her belligerent husband Robert (Roger C. Carmel) agree to take him in and help him find a new source of income. Things aren’t easy as Bo proves to be a major klutz at everything and gets fired from most of his jobs on his very first day. He finally gets hired as a mailman that after a rough start begins to go semi-smoothly, but will his secret relationship with Millie (Deanna Lund) who is his boss’s daughter help ruin it?

I admit I’ve never been much of a Lewis fan. His routine seems too much like that of a 5-year-old desperate for attention and willing to do any inane thing for a cheap laugh. Peter Sellers and Don Knotts have played similar klutzy characters, but they at least came off as semi-believable adults albeit not very bright ones. Lewis though is this middle-aged man who for no warning or reason will suddenly revert to the behavior of a 6-year-old, which isn’t funny, but creepy, weird and pathetic instead. You start to wonder how this character was able to make it in the adult world as long as he had without being sent away somewhere instead of whether he will get a job or not.

His shtick amounts to nothing more than accidently knocking something over and spilling contents onto the floor, which is about as simplistic and basic as you can get. In many cases he doesn’t even offer to pick it up, which forces others to do it instead. In one instance he knocks over some materials that were lying on top of his boss’s file cabinet and then just lets them remain on the floor only to have the stuff three minutes later magically reappear on the top of the cabinet anyways.

The empty logic of this already threadbare concept is another issue. Why must this circus clown resort to doing jobs he has no experience in? Aren’t there other circuses out there that he could work for? And wouldn’t a man who has spent years working in that industry have built up a network of contacts that he could go to in time of need?

His foray working as a sushi chef where he pretends to be Japanese will be deemed offensive and racist by today’s standards, but the film’s worst scene is the one involving a blimp. He decides on a whim to pilot one despite being on-the-clock as a postman. Since the character is unable to flip even a light switch without causing a catastrophe one would expect his blimp drive to have dire consequences, but instead he pulls it off without a hitch and then somehow doesn’t lose his job or get arrested afterwards.

Filmed in 1979 the production was forced to go on hiatus for 6 months when it lost funding, which may be why Oliver and Carmel, who appear predominantly during the first half, disappear completely without explanation during the second part. In either event Lewis’ ‘big comeback’ after a 10-year absence from the big screen is a complete misfire. His material hasn’t evolved at all and he relies on the most infantile jokes and insipid scenarios imaginable that wouldn’t entertain a bored child let alone an adult.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jerry Lewis

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS

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