What's Up, Doc? Reviews
...good olī Burnsy asks her completely overwhelmed fiance Howard "Steve" bannister. But in vain!
There is simply no answer to this question or to who for now is trying to grab just which one of the 4 completely identical bags with - of course - completely un-identical content. Because even before such questions only one of the numerous members of this motley heap of loonies could possibly answer at all, Barbra Streisand as Queen Qaos long already has added even more chaotic chaos to the chaotic situation, so that neither Steve nor Howard ever know whether they are male or female! It is simply H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S.
yes, HILARIOUS. In the very best slapstick and screwball manner director Bogdanovich speeeeeeeeeds up as you have never seen it. (except of course in Billy Wilder's "1,2,3")
The pace is so breathtaking, that amount of gags as high as the density of an atomic nucleus.
The performers play with childishly naive enthusiasm and esp. the two "ladies" Streisand and Kahn (as totally stiff-prudish Burnsy she is simply a blast!) are just brilliant.
The other ingredients:
1 hotel-room on fire in addition to the mentioned 4 identical bags, about 9 golf clubs, 2 certified window-jugglers and 1 pound of jewels, 0.07 Agents and 1 prehistoric collection of ancient rocks, about 8 tons of car scrap and all that topped with a pill-addicted judge just beyond of a nervous breakdown.
Well, that sounds silly, but quite interesting... doesn't it?
Esp. in the 70s many of imho the most absurd comedies were created. What's up doc is one of the best ones EVER!!!
(amongst + Monty Python's Holy Grail, Louis de Funes - Mr. Jo, and Inspector Clouseau)
Rating = 95% (a masterpiece!)
We definitely should.
Apparently, Peter Bogdanovich thinks so too. He began his career as Martin Scorsese's brotha-from-anotha-motha (critically, that is) but has slowly faded, in terms of popularity and critical adoration (the last film he directed was "The Cat's Meow", a fluffer released in 2001). Like Prince, Bogdanovich hit his peak at the beginning of his career - naturally, keeping early acclaim is not an easy task. One can hardly fault him for being a quintessential '70s director: he has given us some of the best movies ever made. It's impossible to mention "The Last Picture Show", "Paper Moon", or "What's Up, Doc?" in the scope of cinematic history and only get a passing reaction.
But let's talk about "What's Up, Doc?" for a minute (or the rest of the review). It was made between the heaviness of "The Last Picture Show" and the sardonicism of "Paper Moon". Both were filmed in black-and-white, both were sad-funny (or just plain old sad), and both existed in a middle ground between bruising reality and sweeping cinematic fundamentals. "What's Up, Doc?" is the odd man out: it's filmed in color, is a full-blown comedy, and has nothing to say about culture except for a superiorly meta remark about "Love Story" (you know, the movie that made Ryan O'Neal a star?). It's a screwball comedy, though, and that's part of the fun. Most thought the genre died around the time 1949's "I Was a Male War Bride" came out; but no. "What's Up, Doc?" is too well executed and much too rib-tickling to be passed along as an homage. It's a cleverly conceived addition to an established genre that reigned all the way back to the days when Norma Shearer was still considered to be a big deal (and that was ages ago).
This time around, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant are replaced by Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand with gusto; O'Neal is the square, Streisand is the cuckoo bird who wins him and us over with her unrealistic, unintentional humorousness. O'Neal portrays Howard Bannister, a musicologist in town with his overbearing fiancee (Madeline Kahn) to receive a grant offered by Frederick Larrabee (Austin Pendleton); Streisand is Judy Maxwell, a fast-talking, multiple collegiate failing woman who decides that Howard is the man for her, and that Howard, from now on, will be called Steve. Other guests pass through the hotel, including Mrs. Van Hoskins (Mabel Albertson), an aging socialite covered in gleaming jewels, Mr. Smith (Michael Murphy), a potential whistleblower carrying top secret files, Mr. Jones (Phillip Roth), who is following Mr. Smith, a bunch of thieves who hope to steal Mrs. Van Hoskins diamonds, and more. But that's not all. Four of these people are carrying identical bags; four of them lose their bags; and four of them find themselves in the possession of materials that certainly aren't theirs. Farcial tensions ensue.
It's difficult to write about comedy, especially comedy like this, because, in the case of drama or other sweeping genres, there is an opportunity to go deep in the analysis, pointing out a metaphor here, an allusion over there. "What's Up, Doc?" isn't particularly scholarly, nor is it sweeping or deep, but boy is it funny. A film like this takes a cinematic master that has the ability to make such plot complications read seamlessly, and Bogdanovich is the perfect man for the job. He has clearly studied the pulses of films like "My Man Godfrey" and "Midnight", and emulates them without a single flaw. It's short - a quick 93 minutes - and not one moment goes by without a smile, a laugh, or something like that. The dialogue gets the tone of "His Girl Friday" just right, and O'Neal and Streisand are just as good as Grant and Hepburn were in "Bringing Up Baby". (Streisand has never been better.)
And there's that car chase. That car chase. I can't give away too much, but I will reveal that obstacles include a glass wall, a street blocking ladder, a costume shop, a Chinatown parade, drying cement, a wedding, and even San Francisco Bay. Things that wouldn't be obstacles in real life but are here, somehow easy to accept. How the characters run into them I cannot say, but the way Bogdanovich executes the scene is effortless. Its comedic panache is almost erotic. Like I said earlier, though, comedies are hard to write about. So I'll put it shortly and sweetly: "What's Up, Doc?" is one of the best, and one of the smartest, and missing out on its pleasures may as well be a federal offense. So get moving, buster.