Monday, June 15, 2020

Wacky Watch: What's Up, Doc (1972)

Watched:  06/13/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing: First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Peter Bogdanovich

I'd had this cooling on the DVR for a long time, but Jamie wanted to watch a comedy and I'd had this vouched for by a few people, including our own NathanC.  What's Up, Doc? (1972) was a movie I'd seen name-dropped for decades, but didn't think much about it.  Lately, the past couple years or so, though, both some of y'all and a few comments I picked up by osmosis led me to become curious about the movie.

It is weird how hard it is to make a screwball comedy, as evidenced by the dearth of them after 1950 or so.  But somehow Bogdanovich taps directly into what they are and how they work.  Sure, he lifts the notion of an absent-minded scientist paired with a woman made up of unstoppable energy from Bringing Up Baby, but he also taps into the art of the Looney Tune and leans heavily into what makes Bugs Bunny work.  There's no type of gag the movie won't try, from visual to word play to endlessly just messing with everyone - and plenty of people coming in and out of doors.

Honestly, the cast had me on the fence before watching - because no one told me it included Madeline Kahn's first film performance (and she is already totally Madeline Kahn and terrific).  And, I mean, in 2020 Ryan O'Neal isn't a huge sell.  And, look, I know that it's not been cool to like Barbra Streisand during my lifetime, as she'd become a sort of weird pre-Oprah diva figure, but she was amazing in this era and even if the movie isn't your thing, she's never bad.*  But, man, here she's hilarious - a well-meaning agent of chaos in an orderly world, those three steps ahead you're used to when Bugs Bunny is particularly motivated.

Honestly, this sort of thing is 100% in my wheelhouse.  I don't talk much about comedy and how and why it works as it's such a subjective area.  Famously, Streisand herself didn't like the movie when it was released and didn't particularly like making it - but she's hysterical.  As is *everyone* in the thing.   So, anyway - thanks to NathanC for the rec.

*and, yes, it's also a little bit like seeing pictures from back-in-the-day of your mom's overbearing friend and realizing she was kinda foxy before the sparkly caftans, and working through all of that

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