Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mr. Saturday Night

Year 2, Day 18 - 1/18/10 - Movie #383

BEFORE: Continuing my exploration of fame with another film about old-time comics trying to survive in the modern age of entertainment.

THE PLOT: Buddy Young was the comic's comic, beloved by everyone. Now, playing to miniscule crowds in nursing homes, Buddy looks for work in show business.

AFTER: Ha! This movie mentioned George Burns, Walter Matthau and "The Sunshine Boys" - I love when that happens accidentally!

This is a fictional bio of Billy Crystal's alter-ego, Buddy Young Jr., a character he performed on SNL back in the 80's. It's really the history of comedy, from vaudeville talents shows to the Catskills resorts, the 1950's TV shows and the appreciation of "classic" comics in the 1980's and 90's.

Interspersed with the modern scenes of Buddy trying to get back in front of an audience are flashbacks to his younger days - how he and his brother Stan (David Paymer) developed his act, how he met his wife, and the coming together (and falling apart) of his television variety show. Buddy Young Jr. is sort of an insult comic, and (as we also saw in "The Sunshine Boys") it's tough to tell where the act ends, and the actual insults begin.

His brother has a thick skin, but we also see the effect that Buddy's insults have had on his daughter over the years, drug problems and bad marriages are mentioned. Eventually Buddy even drives his brother away, though he returns several times after retiring to Florida.

His new agent, Annie (Helen Hunt) gets him some commercial work, game-show warm-ups and even a meeting with a big Hollywood director, but Buddy manages to screw it all up somehow while trying to be true to his brand of comedy.

There's actually quite a bit of emotional stuff here, about growing old, dealing with death and learning that a few kind words to your family members can make all the difference. And I think they actually did a good job with the make-up, making Crystal look like an 80-year old.

Also starring Ron Silver, Jerry Orbach, with cameos from Jerry Lewis, Slappy White, Richard Kind, Adam Goldberg, Shadoe Stevens, Conrad Janis - and that was Bill Wendell, Dave Letterman's old announcer at NBC, as Buddy Young's show announcer - cool!

RATING: 2 out of 10 (nah, it's really a 7 - you see what I did there?)

1 comment:

  1. This wasn't a bad film. It was just hamstrung by its own earnestness.

    There are many movies in which the writer wrote out an extensive backstory to the character, mapping out his entire life...and then chose to film the backstory instead of choosing one section of this guy's life as the story of the movie.

    I think Billy Crystal was just too much in love with the character...I know that many elements of the movie are autobiographical.