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What's Up, Doc? (1972)

1 rating: 3.0
Comedy movie directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) tipped his hat to the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s, and especially the most glorious of them all, Howard Hawks'Bringing Up Baby. Barbra Streisand plays a charming flake who distracts a self-absorbed … see full wiki

Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Genre: Comedy
1 review about What's Up, Doc? (1972)

Wild and Wacky/Cute and Contrived

  • May 19, 2006
There's nothing quite like "What's Up Doc?". Off the cuff, one could say they don't make 'em like they used to. Otherwise, one must rely on older comedies to fit the bill. The movie still seems modern despite some of the early seventies garb and hairstyles. The pace and delivery are superb throughout. The plot is happily preposterous: At least four parties of people coincidentally meet into one another and have coveted valuables inside of identical suitcases. Judy Maxwell (Barbara Streisand) bohemian vagabond extraordinaire, leads this most excellent screwball adventure when she briefly ends her wanderlust and falls in love with the nerdy, absent-minded professor, Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neill). Bannister is checking into a swanky San Francisco hotel with his cuckholding fiance', Eunice Burns (Madeline Kahn) where they will attend a musicologist convention. The plot thickens as others join the fray.

There are thieves at the hotel who set their sites on a wealthy woman's suitcase filled with jewels; another thief wishes to lift a suitcase filled with top-secret documents. Bannister's luggage contains a rare form of igneous rocks, meant to be showcased at a dinner reception held at the hotel. Judy's suitcase is filled with her own belongings. It quickly becomes the comedy of errors. However, instead of there being a case of mistaken identity of persons, there is a case of mistaken identity of suitcases. Meanwhile, Judy connives to replace Eunice at the musicologists' dinner, an affair meant to have grant doner Frederick Larabee (Austin Pendleton) mingle with professors vying for a $20,000 research prize. Howard who is shy and awkward is no match for Judy who is no shrinking violet. She may convince Frederick with her charm to win the prize for Howard, but is unable to win her own prize, Howard. The action reverts back to the hotel corridor where thieves are stealing and exchanging matching luggage. Then, the fun really begins...

The movie is great. The chase scenes are expert, and the lines are often superb. It has a great comedic cast with Streisand marvelously delivering some of the most intricate fast-pitch lines of any comedy in memory. The movie just couldn't have been done without her. And Madelaine Kahn's film debut as the fussbudget fiance is often hysterical (in both senses of the word). Kenneth Mars performance is fairly good, if not overblown, as Howard's nemesis, a pompous buffoon, competing for the foundation grant. (However, we've seen better performances from him before.) Some of the minor roles are much better. John Hillerman as the hotel manager and Liam Dunn as the courtroom judge are superb. (It may be of cursory interest, but M. Emmet Walsh and Randy Quaid can also be found here [as well as other familiar actors not known by name]). Praise is also due for Peter Bagdonovich ("The Last Picture Show") and his directorial abilities to put this happy mess together. (By the way, those expecting a romantic comedy will probably be disappointed. It is 5% romantic, and 100% screwball--if that adds up.)

"What's Up Doc?" is a screwball comedy par-excellence. It is wild and wacky, cute and contrived. And those are some of its better traits.

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