Friday, 24 October 2008

No.95 : What’s Up, Doc?

IMDb Link :

Barbara Streisand stars as Judy Maxwell in this screwball comedy, come farce set in San Francisco. The film opens with Ryan O’Neil and his fiancée arriving at the airport prior to their nuptials. We know he’s a nerd as he wears glasses but to hammer the point home he’s also a geologist who is carrying a tartan bag full of rocks in the hope of securing a grant for his research. Elsewhere a man with an identical bag checks the contents - a load of files marked ‘Top Secret’. He has worries of his own as he’s being followed by a mysterious man.

As Ryan checks into the hotel we overhear a rich lady checking her own tartan bag in at reception - this one is full of jewels and to complete the quartet another tartan bag full of knickers is thrown into the mix. With all these tartan bags floating around I hope they don’t all get mixed up with funny consequences! Of course they do, but first Ryan has to bump into Barbara which he duly does in the hotels chemist when she delivers the titular line as her greeting.

For reasons not immediately clear the fast talking Barbara takes a shine to Ryan and make his head spin with her double talk and riddles. With the cast now all introduced it’s time for the bags to get mixed up and for various unfortunate coincidences to unfold. With Ryan’s grant at stake as well as his engagement he has to fend off the annoying Barbara as well as thieves and spies galore.

Once the mix is in the open the various keepers and desirers of the bag engage on a long chase through the streets of San Francisco by car, foot and bicycle with love, diamonds and national security at risk. Who will end up with who and what bag will each of them end up with? Can the judge sort out the whole mess and get the starring pair together for the credits? Yeah, probably.

Although extremely contrived this is a hard film to dislike and there are several nods to camera that indicate that the skewed reality is no oversight. I’m not usually a fan of farce and there are plenty of occasions where a timely explanation would save a whole heap of trouble, but clearly that’d be less fun.

The first hour is basically a preamble to the memorable chase sequence which has a few cracking stunts and some vintage slapstick moments such as the men trying to get a plate of glass across street while cars fly back and forth. The secondary characters are great value with Ryan’s grant rival good fun as is his frumpy fiancées, played by Madeline Khan who was a whole lot sexier in ‘Blazing Saddles’.

The two leads are pretty good although the fast talking Streisand in her Jewish Princess mode would be a major annoyance after a few minutes of her company. O’Neil does well as the stuffed shirt Howard who comes out of his shell as the film progresses.

The plot as it is, is simply a series of misunderstandings but enough fun and action is heaped upon it that you forget how sleight it is. Not a bone fide classic but certainly as good as a screwball comedy as you could hope for.

Best Bit : Smashing Scene With Glass

‘W’ Score : 17/23

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