Tag Archives: Dudley Moore

Romantic Comedy (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Playwrights fall in love.

Just as Jason (Dudley Moore), a popular playwright, is getting ready to tie-the-knot with the beautiful Allison (Janet Eilber) he meets Phoebe (Mary Steenburgen). Phoebe is a school teacher aspiring to be a playwright and hoping to team up with Jason, who has had some success in the past, but looking for new inspiration. The two soon become a successful writing team, but begin to fall-in-love in the process, which creates a strain on Jason’s marriage.

The film is based on the play of the same name that was written by Bernard Slade, who also wrote the screenplay. Slade was at one time a television producer whose most noted creation was Th Partridge Family’, but by the late 70’s had moved into writing plays with his biggest hit being Same Tim Next Year about two married people who get together once a year to have an affair, which became a runaway international hit and inspired Slade to then write this one, which is basically just a minor reworking of the same theme. While his first play was hailed as being fresh and original this thing is much more mechanical and ultimately as generic as its title.

The story’s biggest failing is that we never get to see the relationship blossom and grow. Instead it starts out with their awkward meeting that exposes their contrasting personalities and temperaments and then jumps ahead several months later to where they’ve already become lovey-dovey to each other, but with no insight as to how that came about. Part of the fun of watching a romance is seeing how it flourishes between two very unlikely people, but here that gets glossed away making everything that comes after it seem very forced and contrived.

The film also offers no insight into the collaboration process and how two people can work together to create a play, which could’ve been both interesting and amusing. It also could’ve been revealing seeing what kind of plots their plays had and why some of them are flops while others are hits. Having a story within a story concept where the two write about the secret emotions that they have for the other into their characters could’ve added a unique angle, but like with a lot of other things here becomes another missed opportunity.

Moore and Steenburgen have no chemistry and there was a big 18 year age difference between them. Moore is too acerbic and having him go from being sarcastic and abrasive to suddenly loving and tender is unconvincing. Steenburgen’s young girl voice makes her seem empty-headed and not the sophisticated, witty type who would be able to write the type of plays that she supposedly does. Why Mia Farrow and Anthony Perkins, who played the parts in the original Broadway play, weren’t cast in the same parts here is a mystery, but they would’ve been far more effective choices.

The expected drama and conflicts involving the wife never culminates into anything making her presence virtually pointless. The laughs are non-existent as well. In fact the only time it ever gets even mildly amusing is when Moore and Steenburgen would argue and it would’ve been funnier had they been portrayed as hating each other, but teamed up anyways simply because they somehow managed to write hit plays when they worked together.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: October 7, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 43 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: MGM/UA

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Lovesick (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Therapist falls for patient.

Saul (Dudley Moore), who works as a psychoanalyst, starts to see a new patient, Chloe (Elizabeth McGovern) who he immediately starts having feelings for, but every time he fantasies about her he sees a vision of Sigmund Freud (Alec Guinness) in his head who advises him not to go through with it due to ethical issues. The problem is that Chloe also has feelings for Saul. Can the two work out a relationship despite being up against professional and societal obligations that won’t let them?

The biggest mystery here is why these two stars would choose to act in this project. Moore was coming off two mega hits at the box office and McGovern had just gotten nominated for an Academy Award for her work in the critically acclaimed Ragtime and yet they choose this vapid thing as their follow-up. I realize it was written by Marshall Brickman, who won the Oscar for his Annie Hall script, but not everything he touches will turn to gold and it’s pretty obvious pretty quickly that this screenplay isn’t on par with that one. In a lot of ways this thing, which was critically panned and just barely able to break even at the box office, could be blamed for sinking both of their careers. It also smothers their talents by forcing Moore to play a part in too normal of a way to the point that he isn’t funny at all and completely upstaged by everyone else. McGovern on the other hand, who was only 21 at the time, plays a woman who is more middle-aged, which squelches her youthful beauty and energy.

The supporting cast aren’t allowed to play to the full potential of their talents either. I was intrigued to watch the movie when I read the plot synopsis about Alec Guinness appearing as Freud, which I presumed would be really funny, but the concept does not get played-up enough and becomes completely dull and forgettable. Alan King with his abrasive personality is always good for a few sparks, but here his presence doesn’t add much and it would’ve been funnier had he been cast as a therapist.

The biggest disappointment is how Ron Silver gets misused. He plays the perfect composite of an arrogant, obnoxious actor that manages to give the film a slight boost, but then as it progresses his demeanor gets softened until he becomes as boring as everyone else and then by the second-half he gets dropped completely.

The story itself is unbelievable and hard to fathom how anyone could’ve given it the green light. The part where it jumps-the-shark is when Moore steals McGovern’s house key, breaks into her home, reads her private diaries and then eventually gets caught hiding in her bathtub, but instead of her becoming freaked out about this and running to the police she immediately goes to bed with him!

It’s not like therapists don’t sometimes have romantic feelings for their patients or vice versa, but that doesn’t mean they always follow through with their emotions, or if they did it most likely wouldn’t work out. The film here takes an intriguing concept and then glosses over all of the potential complications that would ensue. Everything works out too seamlessly by packaging a complex issue in too much of a cutesy way.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: February 18, 1983

Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Marshall Brickman

Studio: The Ladd Company

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Unfaithfully Yours (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Conductor suspects wife’s infidelity.

Claude Eastman (Dudley Moore) is a famous orchestra conductor who’s married to Daniella (Nastassja Kinski). While he is on vacation his friend Norman (Albert Brooks) hires a detective (Richard B. Shull) to keep an eye on her and he mistakenly thinks that she’s cheating on Claude with Maximillan (Armand Assante). When Claude finds this out he comes up with a crafty plot to kill her and frame it on Maximillian, but once he tries to put the plan into action everything goes awry.

This is a remake of the film with the same title that was released in 1948 and starred Rex Harrison. That film was quite funny especially the second-half, but it wasn’t perfect and this one makes several changes to the original script that I felt actually improved it. One of the changes is that while Claude is conducting the orchestra he comes up with the plan of how he wants to kill her, but in the original it was three different ideas while here it is only one. Some viewers have complained about this, but the truth is that the other two ideas weren’t very funny or interesting, so whittling it down to only one works better.

I also felt that it was dumb at how in the original Harrison had no interest in reading the report that the private eye hands him and at one point even tries to set it on fire, but I would think any reasonable person, even if they wanted to believe that their partner wouldn’t cheat on them, would still be curious enough to want to take a look at it. In this version Moore initially resists but eventually his curiosity gets the better of him, which is how I think 99 % of other people would act if in the same situation, which therefore makes Moore’s attempts at retrieving the report after initially discarding it all the more comical.

The actual murder plan though is better handled in the first one, where if done exactly right was rather ingenious and even believable. Here though the idea that Moore comes up with has a lot of glaring holes in it right from the start including the fact that he attempts to record his wife’s laughter/screams while inside a restaurant, but the noise of the other customers would conceivably drown out the wife’s voice. The recorder is also placed too far away from where the wife is sitting making whatever noise it does pick-up from her come off as quite muffled and distant.

I felt that Harrison’s acting in the original was what really made it work, but Moore does just as good here particularly in the animated way he conducts, which is a laugh onto itself. However, the scene where he mistakenly drinks some coke that is laced with crushed tranquilizer pills, which presumably should’ve knocked him out completely, but instead it makes him behave in a slightly drunken state is too reminiscent to the alcoholic character that he played in Arthur and therefore should not have been done here due to the comparison.

Although it doesn’t quite hold-up and loses steam by the end it’s still an entertaining ride. If you’re more into classic Hollywood films, or you want to watch and compare both, then I’d say the black-and-white original is just as good as both films had me laughing-out-loud at several points and both deserve a 7 out of 10.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: February 10, 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 36 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Howard Zieff

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rich guy goes broke.

Arthur (Dudley Moore), still a boozing and irresponsible cad with a lot of money, finds out that Linda (Liza Minnelli), his wife of 6 years, wants to have a baby, but she can’t have one naturally, so they’re forced to consider adoption. They have a good initial meeting with the representative (Kathy Bates) at the adoption agency only to find that Burt (Stephen Elliot), still upset at the way Arthur jilted his daughter Susan (Cynthia Sikes) at the altar 6 years earlier, has taken control of Arthur’s inheritance through some wheeling-and-dealing and turned him into a poor man. Now for the first time in his life Arthur must find a job despite having no experience in the working world at all.

This sequel takes the idea of what I thought should’ve happened in the first film, but unfortunately botches it badly by creating a concept with too many loopholes. Exactly how does a man worth 750 million lose it all just like that? Wouldn’t he have some of that money stored up in the bank or in stocks? What about the money he would most certainly have tied up in assets and equity like the 6 homes that he mentions owning? Couldn’t he just sell those and everything he owns inside of them and use that money to remain solvent instead of going from super rich to super poor overnight?

Things get really overblown when Burt buys up every apartment building Arthur moves into and every company Arthur works for, so that no matter where he goes he’ll be assured of always getting fired or evicted. Yet Arthur was already doing poorly enough at his hardware store job, which would’ve gotten him eventually fired anyways without having to have Burt intervene. It’s also never made clear how Burt is able to find out which new company or apartment building Arthur is moving into or working for. Was there some person/spy following Arthur around and reporting back to Burt everything he was doing and if so this should’ve been shown, but never is.

There is another scene where the lady from the adoption agency arrives at Arthur’s and Linda’s new apartment in order to check-out their living conditions. Yet the couple had just agreed to rent the apartment five minutes earlier, so how would the adoption agency know that the couple was living there since they hadn’t yet informed anyone of their new address?

Jill Eickenberry, who had played Susan in the first film, was unable to reprise her role due to working in the TV-show ‘L.A. Law’, so director Bud Yorkin had her replaced with his wife Cynthia Sikes. Sikes though plays the part much differently. In the first film Susan came off as a naïve, wide-eyed innocent, but here she is deliberate and mean. The contrasting personalities of the character don’t work and the film would’ve been better had the character just been killed off maybe in a suicide because she was so distraught at losing Arthur, which would’ve then made Burt’s nasty scheme at trying to get back at him make more sense.

The cast though does a decent job and there are some scattered laughs, but overall it’s flat and draggy. Chris de Burg’s opening song pales in comparison to the chart topping, award winning hit that Christopher Cross did in the first film, which only helps to set the lifeless tone for the rest of the movie.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: July 8, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Bud Yorkin

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Arthur (1981)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rich drunk grows up.

Arthur (Dudley Moore) is an alcoholic man-child and heir to a vast family fortune, but only if he agrees to marry Susan (Jill Eikenberry), which his rich father (Thomas Barbour) pressures him to do.  Arthur does not love Susan and instead falls for commoner Linda (Liza Minnelli) who works as a waitress and shares a lifestyle that is completely different from his. Hobson (John Gielgud) is Arthur’s lifelong butler who is suffering from an undisclosed illness and expects not to be around much longer, so he thinks Arthur should get married, so he’ll have a wife to look after him once Hobson is gone.

This film was a box office success, but I failed to see what was so great about it when I first watched it decades ago and remain mystified after now seeing it again many years later. The film’s garbled message remains one of the biggest problems particularly the broad caricatures of all the rich people in Arthur’s life who seem stuck in some bygone era. The movie spends half the time mocking them, but then conveys the idea that true happiness can only come from becoming just like them. The benefits of being in the working class are never touched on and instead everything gets portrayed in a shallow, simplistic manner that lacks any true bearing in reality.

I was also surprised as to why Liza Minnelli’s character had to steal a tie at a men’s clothing store, which is where she first meets Arthur, as she really didn’t seem all that bad off. Sure she wasn’t living in the ritziest part of town, but she was far from being homeless. Her apartment that she shared with her father, played by Barney Martin, was roomy and adequately furnished. She also had a job and not in any way desperate and yet the movie spins it like she is, which shows that the filmmakers didn’t have any idea of what being truly poor is really like.

The dumb arranged marriage plotline has no connection to modern society and today mostly only occurs in south Asia, so why enter in an element in a supposedly ‘realistic’ comedy that doesn’t happen to regular people? It is also confusing exactly why Arthur’s father wants him to marry Susan. Supposedly it is so she’ll get him to ‘grow up’ or ‘make something of him’, which is hard to understand since she comes off as a wide-eyed dippy that is just as immature as he is if not worse.

A more interesting plot would’ve had Arthur lose his fortune and forced him to get a real job and deal with harsh realities that he had never had to face before. This would allow for a stronger character arch as well as some incisive social commentary. He also could’ve meet Linda while working a remedial job instead of the awkward forced way that he meets her here.

Gielgud’s quips are the best thing about the movie, but everything else is pretty limp. I have never seen the 2008 reboot starring Russell Brand, but after reading that film’s plot synopsis I think it’s an improvement as they seemed to have filled in the logic loopholes as to why Arthur was forced into an arranged marriage, which alone makes that superior to this one.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: July 17, 1981

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Steve Gordon

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Like Father, Like Son (1987)

like father

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Father/son switch roles.

Dr. Jack Hammond (Dudley Moore) is highly absorbed in his position as surgeon at a local clinic while hoping to get a promotion to chief of staff. His teen son Chris (Kirk Cameron) has problems of his own whether it is with school work, girls, or bullies. The two don’t see eye-to-eye on much, but then one day one of them drinks a mysterious potion that allows them to switch bodies and see what the other half goes through, which ends up being an eye-opener for both as well as leading to many expected calamities.

This film could best be described as the male version to Freaky Friday and would’ve been a complete disaster if it hadn’t been for the engaging performances of the two leads. After doing Arthur and getting on top of the Hollywood A-list Moore made a lot of poor film choices, but this was one of his better later-career moves and allows him to display his comic versatility and for the most part he is quite funny. Cameron is surprisingly good as well and it was interesting seeing him play against his squeaky clean, religious image that he has now by playing a character, who buys porno mags, jams to MTV and even at one point gives a guy the finger.

The comic scenarios are amusing, but could’ve been played up much more. When Chris is in Jack’s body he seems to behave much more like a 13 or 14-year-old instead of a high school senior. Jack’s behavior when in Chris’ body has issues too. I thought it was funny when he gets up and gives a long lecture to a biology class because that is a subject that he is an expert in, but then when he gives another one to his history class it was pushing the joke too far because no adult is going to be an expert at every subject. I also found it curious that he is surprised when he gets ostracized after snitching on another student as logically we must assume he did attend high school once himself, albeit a long time ago, so he would still remember what the teen culture was like and therefore be able to predict and expect some of the reactions he gets instead of being completely thrown off by them.

There is never any explanation, or at least none that I can remember, about the missing mother, or wife character. I realize that there are many single parent households in the world, but it still would’ve added some extra comic zing by having a mother/wife in the mix. To make up for this it incorporates instead a horny wife character of the hospital’s administrator (Patrick O’Neal) that is played by Margaret Colin who comes onto Moore and even arrives at his home for a sexual rendezvous that outside of a scene involving a burning sofa is pretty dumb.

The ending is a bit corny and the script only touches the surface to what could’ve been a comic minefield of possibilities, but it’s still okay entertainment if one approaches it with low expectations. You can also spot Bonnie Bedelia in a small, nonspeaking part as a woman who gets a wad of gum stuck in her hair.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 2, 1987

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Rod Daniel

Studio: TriStar Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

30 is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia (1968)

30 is a dangerous age

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Life crisis at 30.

Rupert Street (Dudley Moore) is a struggling pianist and composer who with only six weeks until his thirtieth birthday feels that his life has been a failure. He sets out to change that by setting some very lofty goals, which is to write a musical and have it produced as well as getting married even though he has yet to find a girlfriend.

The film, which was directed by Joseph McGrath is filled with the wonderfully drool British humor that manages to be both lightly satirical and imaginative all at the same time. The rampant cutaways in which a character will be talking about something and then it cuts to show them doing what they are imagining or discussing lends a nice surreal quality. The banter that Moore has with a Registrar (Frank Thornton) where he tries to get a marriage license before even having picked out a woman is the high point of the film and a perfect example of the wacky humor of that era from that region of the world that balances being both subtle and over-the-top that I wish more American movies would be better able to replicate.

The supporting cast helps a lot and is full of comic pros. The elderly Eddie Foy Jr. is a scene stealer as Rupert’s best friend and so is Duncan Macrae, whose last film this was, as Rupert’s boss. Patricia Routledge is great as his kooky landlady and Suzy Kendall is highly attractive as his fiancée. There is also an amusing parody of 1940’s detective movies featuring John Bird as a self-styled film noir-like private eye.

Unfortunately the script, which was co-written by Moore, suffers from too much of loose structure. The jokes are poorly paced and many times the comic bits go on longer than they should. There is also an intermixing of musical numbers that features Moore at the piano, which does not work well with the rest of the film. Yes, Moore was also an excellent pianist, but this was no place to be showing it off and these segments only help to bog the film down as a whole. The ending, which features Moore having to witness the desecration of his musical by an overzealous director who has a different ‘vision’ for it is priceless, but in-between there are a lot of lulls and the film would’ve been helped immensely by having a tighter script and a more structured, plot driven story.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: March 4, 1968

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Joseph McGrath

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

Micki & Maude (1984)

micki and maude

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Two women get pregnant

Rob (Dudley Moore) is a man who becomes increasingly isolated from his wife Micki (Ann Reinking) after she gets too caught up in her career to have time for him. To compensate he begins an affair with an attractive younger woman named Maude (Amy Irving). He plans on divorcing his wife and marrying her, but then they both become pregnant at the same time.

The plot progresses much too slowly and it takes almost fifty minutes before there is any real comedy. It seems hard to believe that a man, by his own admission, could spend ten hours a day with one woman another ten with the other and still be able to hold down a full time job without it all unraveling on him a lot sooner than it does. Moore also doesn’t play the part in a realistic way he should be more stressed out and frantic and on the verge of a complete mental and physical breakdown, but instead he seems very cool and collected most of the time. The script also doesn’t capitalize enough on the many crazy complications that would most assuredly ensue in a situation like this one and the ones it does bring up are not real believable or funny. The climactic delivery room scene becomes way too overblown.

On the positive end Ann Reinking clearly comes off as the better actress than her counterpart, at least in this production. Her character has some amusing flaws while Irving is just too boringly normal. Her only good moment comes with an amusing line that she says during the delivery room scene. Richard Mulligan is good in support and some of his lines are real gems! There is also a completely unexpected and very funny scene between overweight actress Lu Leonard and Wallace Shawn that may very well be the best moment in the whole movie.

The concept is good and it should have been ripe for hilarity, but it doesn’t live up to its full potential. If there is one film that should be remade it is this one. There is a lot more comedy that could be squeezed out of a storyline like this one.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Blake Edwards

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video