Thursday, June 23, 2016

Way...Way Out

Year 8, Day 174 - 6/22/16 - Movie #2,375

BEFORE: Yes, I'm doubling up on Jerry Lewis solo films today, because this will insure that I hit the right film on July 4.  I'll be ahead in the count for a while, more films than days passed in 2016, but that's OK, because I can take things easier, even skip a day after the holiday.  Heck, I'll be skipping a week for Comic-Con, so my tally's going to be off no matter what.  

I'm concerned that I'm rapidly approaching the "tipping point" for the year - where the number of films on my watchlist will be equal to or greater than the number of viewing slots left in 2016, which could mean that films will spill over into Year 9, which isn't a given until I hit the tipping point.  With my watchlist stuck at 120 (and a new film added each day, more or less, to replace the one I watch), and just 125 available slots, I'm nearly there.  In a few days, all hope of finishing this year will be dashed, however, this is still the longest I've gone into a calendar year while retaining hope of mathematically completing the project within that year.  Heck, June's almost over, I made it more than halfway through the year thinking I could finish.  That's something, right? 

THE PLOT: The United States, while engaged in a space race with the Soviet Union, decides to place the first married couple in space.  

AFTER: Well, as luck would have it, I'm helping one of my bosses with her new screenplay, which is all about a woman growing up in a Communist country, and falling in love, getting married, divorced, etc. and that happens to be very insightful when it comes to understanding the background for "Way...Way Out", which is set in the far off "future" of 1989, but of course reflects some of the social mores of the year it was released, which was 1966, right in the middle of the Cold War and the Space Race.  For example, I've learned that the Soviet Union wasn't strong on promoting marriage, because it was seen as a strong bond that citizens could consider more important than their bond with the collective, and nothing should supersede that.  However, once they realized that the Russian birthrate was dramatically low and that more citizens were needed to maintain the country, the government changed its stance at some point, and then promoted marriage more.

In a weird way, this is reflected in today's film, since the Russian cosmonauts are encouraged to procreate and make the first baby in space, even though they're not technically married.  The American astronauts simply MUST be married, however, because the entire foundation of American society is based on family values (gag), even if the marriage has to be a sham.  I get that we're a proud people and we're concerned about our image and all that, but a fake marriage doesn't help anyone, it's not the way to do things.  Jeez, isn't the pursuit of happiness more important than being married?  The Declaration of Independence guarantees us that (not happiness itself, just the pursuit of it...) but doesn't say that we have to be married to do it, despite what conservative politicians think.

But isn't that part of our problem?  "Marriage uber alles", it doesn't matter if the married people aren't happy, or one's abusing the other, or one's secretly in the closet, or they're not right for each other - nope, you've got to get married and stay married.  How very short-sighted.  Similarly, once the U.S. space agency determines that the next astronauts on the moon need to be a married couple, there's no talking them out of it.

It seems that the last two astronauts in the moon base, both men, were fighting all the time and came close to killing each other.  It couldn't possibly be because they were gay, no, couldn't be that - it seems that one went crazy and attacked the Russian female cosmonaut.  Apparently, living on the moon without any sexual release turned him into a literal lunatic.  He'd taken to drawing a lot of pictures of naked women - well, what's wrong with that?  While the movie doesn't state it explicitly, I guess I see how that could be rather messy in low-gravity space, if you catch my drift.  Instead his fellow astronaut complains about the Mexican food that he eats and leaves all around the space station - they're kind of like "The Odd Couple", but on the moon.

Enter Jerry Lewis' character, Pete Mattemore, who gets the nod to replace them, but only if he can find a wife in the next three days, from among the available candidates - one less attractive, but eager to get married, and the other more attractive, but not interested in him as a husband.  He shrewdly cuts a deal with the more attractive one - she gets to do her research on the moon and make history, but she doesn't have to sleep with him.  All the benefits and none of the awkward sex - or as many married couples call it after a while, marriage.

However, when they get to the moon, things change after interacting with the Russian couple - who come knocking on their space station door as easily as earthbound neighbors might.  The Russian woman's a knockout, and the Russian man just wants to dance and drink vodka.  They party together, and since neither couple is really what they're pretending to be, you might think that this would lead to some 1960's style swinging, or at least fake-wife swapping, but no, it isn't to be.  The film backs off from this about as quickly as it can, in favor of using jealousy to get its couples back together.

I'm glad that the film (finally) addressed the fact that the two countries were enemies (there's no way that anyone in 1966 could have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, so naturally they just felt this situation would go on forever) and the space agency eventually wises up, pointing out that with all this fraternization, the Russians could be spying on the U.S., planting a bomb, subverting their mission, whatever.  But this is still a very silly story that was ultimately pointless in gaining much insight to the human condition, marital relationships, or pretty much anything. 

The theme song was performed by Gary Lewis & The Playboys, and any trivia fan probably knows that Gary Lewis is Jerry's son, but other than that, there wasn't much to be learned from this.

Also starring Connie Stevens, Robert Morley (last seen in "Around the World in Eighty Days"), Dennis Weaver (last seen in "The Man from the Alamo"), Howard Morris, Anita Ekberg (also carrying over from "Artists and Models"), Dick Shawn, Bobo Lewis (last seen in "The Paper"), Brian Keith (last seen in "Hooper"), with cameos from James Brolin (last seen in "Sisters"), Fritz Feld (last seen in "Barefoot in the Park")

RATING: 4 out of 10 chicken enchiladas

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