Tag Archives: Carl Reiner

Enter Laughing (1967)

enter laughing

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Acting is his dream.

Loosely based on writer/director Carl Reiner’s experiences as a fledgling actor trying to work his way up into the business circa 1938. The story centers on David Kolowitz (Reni Santoni) who works as an apprentice at a machine repair shop, but dreams of one day making a living as a stage actor. He gets his break when he auditions for a part in a low budget stage production run by an aging, alcoholic actor named Harrison Marlowe (Jose Ferrer). Marlowe is not impressed with David’s acting ability, which is marginal at best, but at the insistence of his daughter Angela (Elaine May), who thinks David is ‘cute’, he decides to give him a try under the condition that David must pay them to perform in it and also must come up with his own costume.

Although this was a big success on Broadway as a film is has not aged well and is quite bland. The story is better suited as an episode for a sitcom and stretching out such a thin one-dimensional plot to an almost two-hour runtime becomes quite boring particularly with its plodding pace and direction. The only time it ever gets even mildly funny is during David’s audition scene, but even this ultimately falls flat particularly with the idea that David would be dumb enough to think that words in a script that are in parenthesis would be part of the dialogue and not a stage direction. You would think someone who has spent his entire life dreaming of being ‘the next Ronald Coleman’, who was a big movie star during the ‘30s, would know how a basic script is constructed and therefore this attempt at humor fails.

Santoni, in his first major film role, is terrific and despite being of Hispanic heritage, which Reiner is not, still manages to resemble Carl quite well during Reiner’s younger years. However, the character is too painfully naïve and dumb as he clumsily walks himself into messy situations long after the viewer, or anyone else with some common sense, would clearly see the obvious red flags.

Janet Margolin is beautiful playing David’s girlfriend Wanda and her presence gets an ‘A’ simply for her attractive face alone, but the romantic scenes do nothing but bog this already slow moving film down even further. Also, having David be so oblivious to her insecurities about him working with an attractive leading lady onstage makes him seem insensitive and not funny as intended.

Elaine May is good and so is Jack Gilford as David’s boss at the repair shop. It’s also fun seeing Carl’s real-life son, Rob Reiner, who later became famous for playing Mike Stivic on ‘All in the Family, making his film debut as a nerdy, would-be actor, but overall the film is dated and contrived.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: February 25, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Carl Reiner

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

The Art of Love (1965)

art of love

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Artist fakes his death.

Paul (Dick Van Dyke) is a struggling painter living in Paris who has not been able to make any money with his paintings and feels ready to give up and move back to the states. Casey (James Garner) is his roommate and best friend who tries to convince him to stay by coming up with a scheme where Paul fakes his death by jumping off a bridge and committing suicide, which should bolster the value of his paintings based on the concept that an artist’s work becomes more sought after once they are dead. The plan works, but it forces Paul to go into hiding and allows Casey to make a play at Paul’s fiancée Laurie (Angie Dickinson). When Paul finds out about this he confronts Casey and then things get really zany.

Carl Reiner’s script is trite to the extreme and although it moves at a brisk pace it is not very funny, or even passably amusing. The concept of an artist having to die in order to get his work to sell is an interesting idea to explore, but unfortunately like everything else in the film it is handled in a superficial way and used mainly as a springboard to all sorts of other wild scenarios that become increasingly sillier as it goes along.  Norman Jewison’s direction is dull and unimaginative and despite the fact that it has a European setting it was actually filmed on a Universal studios back-lot, which doesn’t help give it any atmosphere or distinction.

Van Dyke’s character is unrealistically ‘goody-goody’ and clean-cut.  He comes into contact with Nikki (Elke Sommer) a beautiful blonde woman who shows a strong interest in Paul, but he immediately and rigidly rebuffs her like he has no sex drive at all. The comic schtick that he does here is the same stuff we’ve seen him do hundreds of times before and he basically becomes Rob Petrie again simply transplanted into a European setting.

Although he has less comic opportunity Garner is clearly the better actor and has much more of a screen presence. It is easy to see why he continued to get choice movie roles for decades to come while Van Dyke became permanently demoted back to television.

Sommer is wasted in a transparent role. Dickinson, who three years later co-starred with Van Dyke in Some Kind of a Nut is equally forgettable and her constant propensity at fainting becomes increasingly more unfunny the more it occurs.

Ethel Merman makes the most of her role despite its limitations, but every time she speaks she seems to be shouting. Reiner is probably the most amusing out of all the characters in a brief bit as Garner’s shyster lawyer.

I wish I could tell you that there was at least one truly funny moment here, but there really isn’t. The humor is flat and dated and no better than a poor TV-sitcom and in many ways even worse.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 30, 1965

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Norman Jewison

Studio: Universal

Available: None at this time.

Where’s Poppa? (1970)

wheres poppa 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mother has to go.

A beleaguered Gordon (George Segal) is a man who must take care of his invalid mother (Ruth Gordon). Despite being a handsome young lawyer he has literally become trapped by this very difficult woman. The majority of the film takes place in a 1940’s styled apartment. It’s gray, dusty bleakness permeates every shot and shows just how lodged Gordon is in his mother’s world. He is a normal man that is slowly being sucked into madness. He is becoming mad because the world he lives in and life in general is driving him to it. The wall between what he really wants to do in life and his obligations have become so thick that going crazy may be the only real answer.

In fact madness maybe pretty much is what this film is really about. It seems to be saying that there is a certain functioning normality to it and at times even a necessity for it. Everyone in this film conveys their own unique form of madness. There’s the overzealous war general (hilariously played by Barnard Hughes) There’s also the henpecked brother/husband Sidney (Ron Leibman) who goes to almost absurd lengths to make sure everyone is happy. Even innocent, conservative Louise (Trish Van Devere) opens into the crazy world when explaining her rather unique honeymoon experience. The film delves so deeply and consistently into the world of the absurd that at times the senile Mother really doesn’t seem so nutty.

This is the film’s genius. It takes everything we have always accepted and turns it inside out. It takes some of life’s most depressing things and then makes it into an inspired and creative masterpiece. A trip to the old folk’s home has never been considered by many to be funny or memorable, yet a trip to Paul Sorvino’s old folk’s home is. In fact it maybe one of the funniest scenes you’ll ever see.

Writer Robert Klane and director Carl Reiner show an amazing grasp of their material, which is crucial for its success. Everything is fluid and consistent in tone. It shows how you can indeed have an offbeat idea, do it in an offbeat way, and still succeed without compromising.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: July 9, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 22minutes

Rated R

Director: Carl Reiner

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD