Friday, February 11, 2011
Once Richard Pryor, who by all accounts is the funniest stand up comedian to ever live, enters the picture (which is about an hour in to be fair) this film is awesome for the rest. In effect every time Gene Wilder falls off the train the movie's excellence increases dramatically with a punctuated "Son of a Bitch!" each time. Pryor and Wilder work extremely well together even if the plot, characters, and interactions are all horribly cliched. If I had seen the numerous train pictures of old maybe I might not like this movie as much as I do, but since I have not I still maintain this is one of my favorite humorous movies of all time. Jaws from Roger Moore's Bond movies is also in the film briefly, though he mostly just serves as a punchline for various jokes.
The weakest part of this film is the ridiculous romance plot. The recently departed Jill Clayburgh, God rest her soul, is extremely ineffectual as a love interest and pretty much utterly useless as a character. I suppose female characters weren't really coming into their own yet as impressive screen performances, but that's no reason to be completely useless throughout. While you are interested to see what happens to Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and how they get out of being accused of murder, and very interested to see how they once again manage to get on the train, you really don't care what happens to the girl. Or rather, you're absolutely positive the good guys will win and she is simply extant in the least impressive of ways, I'm quite positive the role could have been played by a mute just as effectively.
This film is actually fairly visually impressive, which considering its age is unusual to say the least. The preponderance of CGI in current films makes me appreciate films like these that still look good even without it. While I guess the old complaint was how "fake" films looked (this one looks fine for the most part) now that everything actually is fake it sort of demolishes that old complaint. Every movie Frank Miller ever does is completely blue screened and pretty terrible looking if you actually pay attention, and while a movie like Avatar or Tron does look incredible throughout you still have a pretty severe disconnection that dampens the impressiveness of the film. In this a train crashes through Chicago's main station and annihilates a storefront along the way, while it is staged at least they actually simulated the effect as opposed to just creating it out of thin air.
Final Score: 8/10