Broad Lester Slapstick Vehicle: A Hard Day’s 95 Minutes
DIRECTED BY: RICHARD LESTER/1984
STREET DATE: NOVEMBER 29, 2016/KINO LORBER
I’m sad to report that the very best thing about this Kino Lorber release is the always-outstanding art of Mad Magazine’s Mort Drucker, whose poster adorns the cover and captures the heart of the controlled chaos of the film better than the film does. The disc has no commentaries, interviews, or frills of any kind, leaving the movie to exist in a screwbally vacuum of its own relentlessly forward-falling energy. It’s one of those chase-the-stolen-loot stories that tries so hard to get you on board with its irrepressible-unto-exhaustion series of comic reversals and surprises that there’s no way you won’t end up resenting the effort for its lack of payoff. With its television-movie style wrapped around a busy yet leaden script, the movie is constantly chasing itself trying to find something funny, finding some possibilities along the way, but never staying put long enough to investigate. And all of it is very much a shame, since everyone on screen is giving it their best shot, despite the thin story writ broad, including perhaps the only other reason to check out the movie: a very early, very earnest, and genuinely engaging Jim Carrey. His scenes are very few, maybe four or five, but he’s good, and one can only wonder, if only the producers knew what they had, they’d swap him out for the game but forgettable Michael O’Keefe in the lead. If anything could jump-start this fast-motion plodder, it’s the rubber mug and goofy spontaneity of Jim Carrey.The biggest disappointment, though, is that overseeing it all is the great Richard Lester, seeming to want to tie a bow on the kind of film he’d been making for years in doses: the freewheeling, Rube Goldberg, ever-collapsing slapstick satire. It’s what made his breakthrough features with the Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) – so revolutionary, gilded his best (if forgotten) comedies, and lent an air of whimsy to his two big Hollywood superhero movies, Superman II and III (1980, 1983). The slapsticky opening sequence in Superman III may be the only inspired thing in its entire running time, so it’s no wonder that Lester’s next film would be an attempted full-length apotheosis of that strain of his career. But the result here, unfortunately, is a mass of ill-timed, oddly un-idiosyncratic sequences that neither fully build to a head nor delight in simple humorous observation. Nothing of the several straight-up dramas Lester corralled in his off seasons comes to bear, emotional depth wise – not that one would expect that in this sort of compromised scaffolding sort of enterprise, but when the jokes aren’t paying off, one longs for at least a real person to connect to. Ultimately, there’s little to find or keep of either in the whole slogging 95 minutes.The images in this review are not representative of the actual Blu-ray’s image quality, and are included only to represent the film itself.