The 4th Tenor
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Rodney Dangerfield has successfully skewered song stylists on numerous occasions. His "Rappin' Rodney" was one of the biggest novelty songs of the 1980s and his version of "Twist & Shout" in the film BACK TO SCHOOL is remembered by legions of fans. Dangerfield is out to get respect for his vocal cords once again in this slapstick romp. The comedian plays a nightclub owner who is smitten with a singer who entertains the patrons. Unable to reach her heart, he tries the international language of song. After infuriating an entire neighborhood with his horrible singing, the restaurateur drinks a magical wine that gives him a tenor that would make Mario Lanza bow down in awe. Blessed with this magical throat, the hero just may be able to win over this elusive beauty.
Long-suffering comic Rodney Dangerfield (Caddyshack, Back to School) stars in this cinematic fairy tale about a New York restaurant owner named Lupo, a cynic who suddenly falls madly in love with a tempestuous singer (Annabelle Gurwitch). She spurns him, saying she can only love a man who can sing great opera--so Lupo sets out to learn and falls under the sway of a couple of Italian con men who promise to teach him how to sing. But when he is given a role in an opera, his voice turns the audience into an angry mob. He flees and ends up meeting a buxom young widow (Anita De Simone) with a family secret that can give Lupo the voice he desires--but will it give him Gina? The 4th Tenor strives for a gentle, magical tone. Fans of Dangerfield may enjoy the movie as the comic's last hurrah; others will find him far too old for the part. His spirit yearns, but his flesh is weak. --Bret Fetzer
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On the other hand, "The 4th Tenor" doesn't try to be those films. It's not a raucous, sophomoric comedy, but a more subtle one that aims for smiles & chuckles instead of belly laughs. It works as a sort of Italian fairy tale, or one man's quest for love. It also operates on the romantic notion that the way to a woman's heart is through song.
But Rodney's character of a sincere but lovestruck restaurant owner is so endearing that you're with him all the way...even through a rather lukewarm vehicle. He does get able support from a fine cast: Robert Davi, Charles Fleischer (yes, the voice of Roger Rabbit), and Hamilton Camp, to name a few.
So long, Rodney. Whether your films were terrific or mediocre, you still made me laugh. Thanks for so much! : )
Lupo finally reaches a dock, finds a rowboat and paddles his way to safety. The next morning, he washes ashore on a pond and is found by a young boy, who calls his mother. She is the beautiful Rosa (Anita De Simone) who takes pity on Lupo and takes him home. There we meet her Mamma (Elsa Raven) and Papa (Hamilton Camp) who also take a liking to Lupo. Lupo listens to the family singing as they work, and can't believe how great they all sing. Rosa lets him in on their family secret. The grapes they grow produces a magical wine, and anyone who drinks the wine becomes a great singer! Lupo returns to America and, with a constant supply of wine, becomes the opera singing sensation Lupo the Great! Unfortunately, Gina still wants no part of him. When Lupo discovers that Rosa is going through with an arranged marriage to Marcello (Vincent Schiavelli), a man she doesn't love, he flies back to Italy to stop the wedding. Lupo's attempts to get to the church on time, first on horseback and then with the help of the police, outdoes Dustin Hoffman's similar scene in The Graduate! Lupo arrives just in time to stop the wedding and profess his love for Rosa.
This movie has a more leisurely pace than Rodney's previous films, with less one-liners and more character development. The pastoral scenes in Italy are visually beautiful and give the movie a magical quality. On the other hand, the scenes of the restaurant and surrounding streets in New York City have the look of a soundstage in a movie studio. Considering the peak of the Three Tenors' popularity and Rodney Dangerfield's age, I'm sure this movie would have found a much bigger audience if it had been made several years ago.