An entertaining look at one of the most inventive and influential comic minds of the past half-century.
Jonathan Winters, a comedian whose improvisational style began breaking all the rules back in the 1950s, looks back on his long, strange career in this documentary filled with some of his most inspired bits. In a clip from a TV appearance in the early 1960s, Winters enters a room filled with hats ranging from medieval crowns to space helmets. In the course of several minutes he changes hats at a furious pace, and as each hat goes onto his head, Winters also assumes the facial expressions and voice of a new character. It's a very funny and very weird bit that few other comics could pull off. Robin Williams, who has always been lavish in his praise of Winters, appears in typically manic interview segments to comment on him as a performer. Winters's wife and children also provide their perspective, and Winters provides insight into how he comes up with his bizarre performances and some memories on the ups and downs of his career, which includes a dark period when he checked himself into a mental hospital. The biographical material is interesting, but of course the real gems in this production are the many clips of Winters performing. He is seen morphing into characters on television programs dating back to the early 1950s, and in one odd segment, he improvises routines in the aisles of a hardware store. --Robert J. McNamara