Year 8, Day 175 - 6/23/16 - Movie #2,376
BEFORE: Back on track, and I'm almost done with the Jerry Lewis chain. I had these in a different order originally, and now I can't remember why. It might have been so that I could properly link to "The Thin Man" this weekend, but whatever the link was that I had, I couldn't find it again. So after reviewing all the cast lists again, it made more sense to watch all the Dean Martin films together (five in a row, starting with "Bandolero!") and then deal with the Jerry Lewis solo films in a row (Jerry gets 7 in a row, counting both the team and solo films). I'll have to devise a new indirect link to "The Thin Man", but I know that it's possible.
THE PLOT: The mute bellboy Stanley works at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach - in spite of being a hard-working and friendly employee, the clumsy Stanley keeps getting into trouble with his mistakes.
AFTER: This film opens with a phony motion picture producer, telling us how this film is unlike any other comedy out there, particularly because it has no story. (Oh, great...) It's never a good sign when someone appears on camera to introduce the film that you're about to see - it usually means that a director knows he's got a stinker of a film on his hands, and maybe if they set it up right to the audience, they can salvage it. Nope, a bad film is still a bad film. But if you KNOW that the problem is that the film has no story, why not take the time to, you know, add one?
Instead Jerry Lewis stuck together a bunch of gags that were probably left over from other films, or were meant to go in a film starring a bellboy that was supposed to be ABOUT something, and realized he had like 100 gags and no narrative. Well, by all means, why not proceed? If you throw enough gags on the screen, maybe no one will notice. (Yes, they will.)
I'm admittedly not an expert on screenwriting, but I know that you have to start with an outline and develop that into a strong central story. A bunch of gags by themselves can't possibly constitute a film, it ends up like a bunch of Christmas ornaments with no tree to hang them on. Sure, maybe they're pretty, but they're not being displayed right. I think of a Mel Brooks film like "High Anxiety" or "Young Frankenstein", Brooks could think of 100 gags that riffed on Hitchcock or classic horror films, but there still had to be a central story that connected them all.
In addition, the film is very erratic when it comes to portraying the central character. Sometimes Stanley is incompetent, when it comes to, say, lifting up a piece of luggage, but other times he's strangely gifted, like when he sets up 1,000 chairs in the ballroom for the movie night. Well, if he's a lovable screw-up, how did he do that job so quickly? What's the point in showing him being really, really good at one small aspect of his job? It's just for a quick, cheap laugh, apparently.
Similarly, one day Jerry Lewis himself shows up to stay at the hotel, and people notice the likeness between Stanley and the famous star. And then, what? Nothing, really, they don't switch places, they don't discover that they're long-lost twins, no wacky situation comes as a result of them looking alike, they just happen to look alike, and their lives go on. What a wasted opportunity - well, they do a sight gag where another bellboy supposedly looks like Milton Berle, but compared to where the story COULD have gone, it's rather weak. Oh, wait, I forgot, the film doesn't have any story and they meant to do that. Yeah, right.
Also starring Alex Gerry (last seen in "I Was a Male War Bride"), Bob Clayton, Sonnie Sands, Eddie Shaeffer, Bill Richmond, Jack Kruschen (last seen in "The Apartment"), with a cameo from Milton Berle (last seen in "Broadway Danny Rose")
RATING: 3 out of 10 empty seats at the lunch counter