Friday, August 31, 2007

The Man With Two Brains (1983, Carl Reiner)

As the Bible might have said, it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a movie this silly to actually be good, but somehow this one manages it. Really, either it works for you or it doesn't- like the fellow said, these are the jokes, people. But if it's your thing, The Man With Two Brains is pretty sublime in its ridiculousness. The closest recent equivalent I can think of is something like Anchorman, in which the story is a clothesline for the silliness, and the whole cast is completely game. Compare Steve Martin here to contemporary comics like Adam Sandler or Dane Cook- whereas those guys seem just as concerned with looking cool and acting likable as they do with making you laugh, Martin was 100% committed to the silliness, and wasn't shy about making himself look like an ass if it would get laughs. Martin's innate likability helped- it's the disconnect between his whitebread charm and the goofiness of his early characters that made them so funny. But most of all, The Man With Two Brains survives on its jokes, mini-masterpieces of silliness. From the time Martin recited "In Dillman's Grove" (written by John Lillison, England's Greatest One-Armed Poet) to the bedridden Kathleen Turner- so soon after Body Heat, no less!- I was hooked. I just feel sorry for those kids out there who don't recognize the true identity of the Elevator Killer, since this deprives them of perhaps the film's biggest laugh. But if the face of Merv Griffin hasn't quite permeated the consciousness of the younger generation, they can always enjoy "Pointy birds, oh pointy-pointy / anoint my head, anointy-nointy..." Rating: ***1/2 out of ****.

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