Tag Archives: Kenneth Mars

Beer (1985)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: This beer is flat.

An ad agency goes on the offense when their top client Norbecker beer (Kenneth Mars) threatens to pull their account. B.D. Tucker (Loretta Swit) is put in charge of introducing a new ad campaign that will excite viewers. After she witnesses three men (Elliot Morrison, William Russ, Saul Stein) subdue a gunman at a bar she decides to hire them to star in her new commercial were they’re portrayed as macho men and chick magnets, which causes controversy when female viewers find the ads to be sexist.

Normally I love satire and find it sad that there are so few satirical movies out there and yet it’s films like these that have single-handedly killed the genre. The attempt at mixing the acerbic wit of Network with the work place politics of How to Succeed at Business without Really Trying and then throwing them into the rapid-fire joke structure of Airplane doesn’t work and only succeeds at producing more groans than laughs. The tone is inconsistent with too many dumb gags thrown in for the sake of a cheap laugh that many times has nothing to do with the main theme. Taking satirical jabs at the advertising business is too easy and been done before while portraying the industry and the people who work in it in too much of a generic way. You’ll find a more realistic portrait of the business and on-target satire from a weak episode of ‘Bewitched’ than anything you’ll see here.

The three male leads lack pizazz and are incredibly bland and transparent. The film might’ve had a better chance of working had it cut the three characters down to just one, hired an actor who had some actual presence and then geared the story completely from his point-of-view, so the viewer like the protagonist could see the ugly side of advertising biz first-hand from an outsider’s perspective.

The supporting cast fails to help. Mars does a softer version of the caricature that he portrayed in The Producers, but here it fails to elicit even a small chuckle. Swit, who was nearing 50 at the time, looks great, but her performance lacks verve. Sandra Bernhard, who was initially cast in the role and then later fired, would’ve been a better choice for this type of material.

Dick Shawn’s attempt to emulate Phil Donahue doesn’t work as he fails to share any of Donahue’s same mannerisms although seeing him prance around on stage as he goes from one audience member to the next is worth a few chuckles. The scene though, which involves female audience members shouting their disproval of the beer commercials at the three men who starred in them, would’ve been stronger had it been Swit a fellow female that was onstage taking the women’s heat instead of the men.

The biggest transgression though is that after bombarding us with one silly comedic idea after another it then decides to suddenly at the end make a ‘serious statement’, which is utterly hackneyed. You can’t spend the majority of time being inane only to get ‘profound’ at the last minute, which makes this production seem even more amateurish and misguided than it already is.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: August 30, 1985

Runtime: 1 Hour 22 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Patrick Kelly

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD-R (MGM Limited Edition Collection), Amazon Video

Goin’ Coconuts (1978)

goin coconuts

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Donny and Marie movie.

Donny and Marie Osmond, the brother and sister act from Utah who had a short-lived variety show on ABC during the late ‘70s, take their act to the big screen in this thinly plotted comedy aimed solely at the kiddies. The story has them flying to Hawaii for a performance, but not before a mysterious Priest (Jack Collins) hands them a necklace. Marie decides to wear it not knowing that it is stolen and wanted by various and competing criminals. Will the non-stop barrage of attempts that the thieves make to get the necklace back end up driving the pair nuts? Will this break up their act or better yet will any of this cause you not to sleep at night?

I think the funniest thing about this flick is that it took two writers to come up with a concept that a 6-year-old could’ve thought up in less than a minute. The script is clearly threadbare material and the forced hijinks and ‘zany’ villains aren’t any better. I realize this is aimed at the younger crowd, so one must measure it in a different way, but even so it doesn’t have enough action or special effects to hold their attention and kids of today will probably have no idea who Donny and Marie are or even care.

I realize the Osmonds have been plagued their whole careers with their ‘goody-goody’ image that at one put even gets made fun of by the Kenneth Mars character, but with that said they’re still quite likable and they really can sing rather well. I liked some of their brother-sister banter and the gender bending scene of having Marie driving a motorcycle. I was also impressed with how mature these two were especially when you consider that Donny was only 20 at the time of filming and Marie was 19.

The recognizable character actors who make up the supporting cast helps a little. This marks the final film appearance for both Ted Cassidy and Khigh Dheigh. In Cassidy’s case I was genuinely surprised to find that he passed away less than 3 months after this film’s release as he appeared quite young and energetic.

Mars does another of his over-the-top caricatures that closely resembles the one he did in The Producers, which should make it old and tiring, but he still manages to somehow keep it fresh and lively. Herb Edelman is fun as the high-strung manager and famous bad guy Marc Lawrence has an amusing bit trying to chase down the pair while driving a car with an old lady passenger.

Osmond fans may rate this slightly better, but there’s very little to recommend and best viewed as a curio on a slow night.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 6, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Howard Morris

Studio: Osmond Entertainment

Available: VHS, DVD

Desperate Characters (1971)

desperate characters

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: A marriage without love.

Sophie and Otto (Shirley MacLaine, Kenneth Mars) are stuck in a marriage that has fallen into a real rut. They no longer are able to communicate. Sure they ‘speak’ to each other, but neither one listens or seems to even care. Sophie has had a past affair, which Otto became aware of, but forgiven. The two now try to march on like nothing has happened, but the cracks clearly show even when they both deny it. Sophie looks for some answers from her friends, but finds that their marriages aren’t any better and that there may not be any solution other than just sticking with it.

The film to a degree has a provocative flair and seems almost cutting edge for its day. There is no music and the background sound is made up of the ambience of everyday, big city life. The opening shot consists of the camera slowly zooming into the couple’s New York loft with only the distant sound of children playing, which not only helps the viewer feel very integrated to the city that the characters live, but their quiet isolation as well.

The film also has very little action. The only real moment where things happen is when Otto chases a stray cat through their apartment in order to box it up and take to a vet to test for rabies after its bitten Sophie, which for what it is worth is quite interesting. The rest of the film deals with dialogue, but handled in a more sophisticated way than most as it has a consistent conversational tone that not only makes it more genuine, but something that the viewer must ‘read into’ in order to understand. Frank D. Gilroy’s script, which is based on a novel by Paula Fox, never once ‘tells’ the viewer what to think or feel. Instead we are shown regular people with everyday issues discussing the same things that real people do and it’s all left up to the viewer to interpret what it means, which in many ways I found highly refreshing.

Mars gives an outstanding performance in what was apparently his personal favorite and quite atypical from his other body or work, which mainly consisted of over-the-top comic characterizations. Even more surprisingly is that he gets featured in a nude scene from the back. MacLaine is also exceptional in what many fans consider her best work. She is usually effective with strong characters, but here she’s quietly vulnerable while being featured in a rare nude scene for her as well and her case from the front.

The film’s greatest weakness is that it comes off as rather cold and distant. It would’ve been more revealing had it shown even in flashback when the couple was happy and when or what seemed to happen to turn things for the worse. The film also has the philosophy that there is no alternative to their situation and that being in a ‘bad’ or unhappy marriage is better than being alone as it doesn’t even bother to ever touch upon the benefits of single life or an alternative lifestyle, which in the end makes this film seem old fashioned and dated despite its otherwise Avant-garde approach.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 22, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated R

Director: Frank D. Gilroy

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube