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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Nothing much to see, really, we're inside a Chinese dragon", July 5, 2003
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This review is from: What's Up, Doc? (DVD)
It's a smart-zany-girl-meets-absent-minded-professor-and-hijinks-ensue movie modeled on the screwball comedies of the 30's. This is a funny movie for the whole family. And it's now on a great DVD with commentary by director Peter Bogdanovich (the whole movie) and Barbra Streisand (on selected pieces of the movie.) It also includes some behind the scenes footage including Peter demonstrating for Barbra how to seduce co-star Ryan O'Neal in the "Time Goes By" scene.
What? You want to know what the movie is about? Well it's about these four identical suitcases, and... oh, let's just let the main character put it in his own words:
"My name is Howard Bannister and I'm from Ames, Iowa. It all started when I bumped my head in the taxicab on my way in from the airport. I went to the drugstore for some aspirin and he tried to charge me for a radio because she said her husband would pay for it. But I didn't of course. Anyway, she ripped my jacket and then Eunice, my fiancé, came along. But she kept calling me Steve. Not my fiancé, my wife, or rather the one who isn't my wife.
"Well, anyway that night at the banquet she was there again and everyone was calling her Burnsy. That's short for Burns, Eunice's last name. But Eunice wasn't there. Burnsy was there. Or rather the one who isn't Burnsy. That night I went back to my room and she was there taking a bath. Well, Eunice walked in and the drapes caught fire and the room burned and they asked me to leave the hotel. I really don't blame them. Then today, Mr. Larabee asked me to come to his house and to bring my rocks and bring Eunice. Or, rather Burnsy, the one he thinks is Eunice. Is that clear?"
"No, but it's consistent."
That last line is from the judge, driven to the edge of a nervous breakdown and memorably played by Liam Dunn, who I learned from the DVD was a casting agent, not an actor, and this was his first film appearance.
This film is full of great lines that you will be repeating to yourself for weeks afterward:
"Now don't be nervous Howard, just remember, everything depends on this."
"You'll be safe in the bathroom. Snakes, as you know, live in mortal fear of... tile."
"Since when have you taken bubble baths?" "It came out of the faucet like that."
"So what is the point? The point is, the point is, oh God I've forgotten the point."
Doc is that rare comedy that excels both in snappy dialog and physical shtick. And it throws in just about every physical bit you can think of: pie in the face, a keystone-cops-like group of fireman, girl hiding out on the window ledge and getting knocked off but hanging on by her (well-manicured) fingernails. And a chase scene to end all chase scenes up and down through San Francisco streets.
If nothing else, the film deserves a place in movie comedy history for introducing us to Madeline Kahn. Here, fresh out of college, Pete Bogdanovich found her at an audition in New York and brought her out to California for this film. And what a talent! She gets a laugh with every line, grimace, and whine and all but steals the film right from underneath Barbra Streisand's nose. And she does it by creating a character that at first makes you groan, but you really get to feel for as movie develops. The other supporting players are all the best of Hollywood at the time and are top-notch.
Streisand returned to the screen in this film after a year off, and looks relaxed, tanned and sexy. The script doesn't ask her to do much, other than be herself and use her natural comic talents, which are considerable. She takes old vaudeville shtick (such as "has anyone ever told you that you're very sexy? They never will") and makes it sound fresh.
Ryan O'Neal has two things going for him. He looks cute in his underwear and plaid bow tie, and he has terrific chemistry with Barbra. But he comes off as wooden and empty. This is Ryan O'Neal imitating Peter Bogdanovich imitating Cary Grant. Ironically, in the off screen footage included on the DVD, Ryan is charming, sexy and funny between takes. For some reason Bogdanovich has asked him to hide is charm under a bushel to portray this dull professor. (Fortunately, Peter allowed Ryan to redeem himself the following year in "Paper Moon", arguably Ryan's best screen performance.)
Fast pacing, snappy dialog, great character actors, funny shtick - What's Up Doc has it all and is just as funny today as it was when it broke box office records in 1972.
Back Stage Note: While Barbra was taking vacation, ex-husband Elliot Gould was becoming the busiest star in Hollywood pumping out film after film in the early 70's. In 1971 he was both producing and starring in the drama "A Glimpse of Tiger". Although versions differ, Gould seemed to go out of control, threatening co-star Kim Darby and trying to fire director Anthony Harvey, and finally disappearing for days. Warner Brothers shut down production and tried to recast the picture. Ironically, the star they eventually got was Barbra Streisand who wanted to work with director Peter Bogdanovich. Peter wanted to work with Barbra, but wanted to do a comedy instead of a drama. In a matter of weeks, he and Robert Benton wrote the first draft of "What's Up Doc?". They gave it Buck Henry, who produced the second draft in another three weeks - which became the shooting script. Thus, eight weeks after shutdown, "Glimpse of Tiger" had morphed into "What's Up Doc?" and was filming in San Francisco.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 26, 2010 9:56:40 AM PDT
Sam Warren says:
Fantastic write-up! If it wasn't already one of my favorite films of all time, your review would have inspired me to rent it. Good work!

Posted on Oct 18, 2010 7:23:01 PM PDT
"What kind of wine are they serving at Table 1?"

Posted on Apr 27, 2012 6:25:18 PM PDT
M says:
Ryan O'Neal's performance is perfect, and not an imitation. A unique performance. Not Bogdanovich, not Grant - this is O'Neal playing the role exquistely, with great direction.

PS Why print so much of the dialogue?
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