This is a significant failure for interesting reasons.
Situations can be funny. Worlds can be funny. People can be too, but not all at the same time.
Alda comes from a tradition where people are funny. Situations are there, and worlds too, but only so that funny people can be so.
This is his script, and the whole idea is to fill the screen with people that he thinks are amusing. His style is soft caricatures so that’s what we have here: soft Jewish mother, soft gangster, soft, soft, soft. Something like this formula works for “Mash” because the brand in such TeeVee shows is the accrued recognition without the edges.
But this is long form film, not a skit. Edges are required. Even the gangster shootout is padded with charm.
In such a situation, we seek out the most interesting character. Since there are none as characters, the game is to find the actor playing a character that we find appealing. Fortunately that is easy, since each actor is apparent as an actor.
The one that is the focus for me this time and when I saw it as new, is Anthony LaPaglia as the genteel second generation gangster. He falls for Ally Sheedy, here in red hair.
The expected center was to have been Betsy, played by Molly Ringwald. Her character is given one trait only, but that’s all any is allowed. She is a wacky dress designer. The dresses aren’t amusing, and most of them not that odd. This film, I think, is the turning point in her career, where we saw that she wasn’t charming in the way we had seen earlier. I’m sure that is what she wanted, but there’s nothing to substitute for how she was presented earlier.
Its all the more striking because her sister is played by Ally Sheedy.
Posted in 2008
Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.