Friday, March 21, 2008

Where's Poppa

video
from the amazon reviews
Where's Poppa is a 1970 black comedy film starring George Segal, Ron Leibman and Ruth Gordon. The plot revolves around the troubled relationship between a lawyer son played by Segal and his senile mother played by Gordon. It was directed by Carl Reiner and son Rob Reiner is featured in an early performance.
The brothers Hocheiser make a solemn promise to their dying father that they will "never put their mother (Ruth Gordon) in a home." But brother Gordon (George Siegel) gets stuck with the old dingbat and she is wrecking his life. His law practice is falling apart, his sex life nonexistent, and he can't even hire a nurse to take care of the wacko. Then, suddenly, a nurse-- the girl of his dreams comes along, but mother has other ideas. This wonderful, creative, hilarious 1970 classic comedy directed by Carl Reiner with its gallows humor could not be made today. We have lost much of our artistic freedom to political correctness, commercial timidity and lack of creative talent. But don't take my word for it, ask Mel Brooks who has remarked that some of his movies could not be made today either. Fortunately we can get the video. The movie does require a somewhat offbeat taste to appreciate. Everything and everyone is in a kind of reality warp, the Hocheiser family, the Central Park muggers, the police, the nurse Louise (Patricia Van Devere). The movie is also comment on life in America in 1970, and on how family members manipulate each other with guilt. Finally, I like the ending the movie was released with, it really does work better artistically.
Anyone who doubts George Segal's place in the first rank of American actors over more than a generation needs to see Where's Papa. As a totally hapless, deadpan character he is far funnier in this hour and a half than lots of celebrated comics (Robin Williams, Chevy Chase)have been throughout their whole career. The courtroom scenes are the wildest ever of their type, as are the ones where Ron Leibman runs through Central Park trying to elude the gang of muggers. They can be likened to a Three Stooges comedy with profanity replacing the slapstick. This humor is more than black and certainly not for the sensitive (or the elderly), but almost 30 years after I first saw it, Robert Klane's script and Segal's performance still leave me incapacitated with laughter

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