#SatMat Live Tweet double feature for Sat. & Sun., Mar. 26 & 27: PEE-WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY (2016) and MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979)

This weekend for my #SatMat Live Tweet, I’m doing two movies that don’t get me salivating with anticipation, but I feel I must cave to the zeitgeist.



First off, at my usual Saturday time slot of 4:30 p.m. EDT, I am hosting Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday. I gave Pee-Wee’s feature filmography a chance 30 years ago, when a friend insisted upon showing Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to me. At first, I thought I might actually be on to something, as I chortled mightily at the movie’s first 10 minutes. But after that, it got way too disjointed for my taste.

From all accounts, this three-decades-too-late follow-up follows a similar pattern, so I was prepared to ignore it entirely, but it has gotten surprisingly rave reviews. The icing on the cake was a glowing critique from my blogger-friend Salome at BNoirDetour.

So this Saturday, I am throwing the movie out there for whomever wants to bite. If I end up really and truly liking it, I will eat crow and write an appropriately nice review of it the day after at this blog. If you don’t hear from me on Sunday, you have only Salome to blame.

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Speaking of Salome, she is generously giving up most of her usual Sunday-night Live Tweet time slot so that I can present Monty Python’s Life of Brian at 9 p.m. EDT.

I must confess that, as much as I have revered the British comedy team of Monty Python for the past four decades, this is not my favorite film of theirs. In its native home of Britain, it’s one of the most acclaimed comedies of all time. But, like Pee-Wee’s initial feature film, I find it a bit disjointed, full of plot points that spring up and wither like so much crabgrass. (Click here to read my complete review of the movie at this blog.)

But there’s nothing Monty Python ever did as a team effort that’s completely without merit, and this movie certainly has its share of hearty laughs. And heaven knows, I can’t resist the irreverence of playing it online at the far end of Easter Sunday.

So I hope you’ll join the #SatMat group for one or both of these wacko comedies at Twitter.com this weekend. And happy Easter!





NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (2004): More like Dyno-Mutt


As a studied, quasi-documentary look at a junior-high nerd, Napoleon Dynamite is fascinating. Whether this movie is (as it’s been touted to be) a comedy is another matter altogether. The movie made me slack-jawed, as though I was watching an escalating traffic accident.

The movie concerns the title character (played by where-did-they-get-this-kid Jon Heder) whose family consists of:

* a grandmother who indifferently raises him (when she’s not out racing dune buggies);

* an older brother whose idea of a budding romance is to spend hours conversing with a woman in an Internet chat room; and

* a macho-wannabe uncle, who spends his days revisiting his almost-glory days of high school football from 20 years ago.

These fictional misfits are much like the real family shown in the 2003 documentary Capturing the Friedmans. You feel that, though they might not be guilty of the crimes for which they’re accused, they’re certainly guilty of something.

The rest of the story takes place at Napoleon’s school, where he is constantly bullied and put upon. He actually has an erstwhile girlfriend–socially lacking, but quietly charming–but he’s too self-absorbed to pick up on this. By chance, the fates give him a friend (actually a fellow outcast), whom Napoleon tries to help become student body president.

The movie’s attempts at comedy are mostly an excuse to laugh at what an inept geek Napoleon is. (You don’t want to know where he stores his tater-tots from lunch.) There isn’t the slightest attempt to make Napoleon likable, or to help us to better understand his viewpoint. Like most movies about nerds, this movie believes that Napoleon can’t be a real person unless he becomes as popular as the dreariest kids at his school. (Bill Gates might have a few things to tell this kid.)

If you buy that viewpoint, then the movie ends on an upbeat note. But never in my years of movie-going has such a so-called happy ending been bodily forced upon me. It’s as though a creationist spent 80 minutes explaining his theses and then ended by saying, “But you know what? It’s really all about monkeys.”

The movie’s only (minor) chuckles come from “Drew Carey Show’s” Diedrich Bader as an airheaded defense instructor. As for Jon Heder, it might be that he’s a really brilliant actor, or maybe this role is all he has in him. I don’t know, and I don’t care. Based on the experience this movie gave me, I hope I never see Heder again as long as I live.

Comedies are meant to make you laugh, either with their characters or at them. Napoleon Dynamite had the astounding effect of making me do neither.

Napoleon Dynamite is rated PG for mild language and double-entendres.

Charlie Chaplin in/as A WOMAN (1915)


(WARNING: Spoilers abound!)

A Woman was Chaplin’s third and final film of female impersonation. You might say that this is the one where he really got it right.

The first half is the familiar Keystone scenario of putting some characters in a park and letting some comedy happen. A man is out on a Sunday stroll with his daughter (Edna Purviance) and his wife, both of whom fall asleep on a bench, giving the man a chance to make time with another nearby woman. While the man is off fetching a soda for the woman, Charlie happens upon the scene and makes time with her as well.

The man returns and knocks Charlie out for Round One. But then the woman blindfolds the man and plays hide-and-seek with him. Charlie comes to and gets hold of the man himself. Charlie leads the blindfolded man to a nearby pond, and you just know what’s going to happen, but Chaplin extends the gag beautifully: He sticks his cane into the pond, determines that the water isn’t deep enough to drown the man, and leads the man further down the pond before undoing his blindfold and knocking him into the drink.

Charlie happens upon the snoozing women and makes time with the daughter, who invites Charlie back to her house. The father eventually returns to the house and goes for Round Two with Charlie, who knocks the man out temporarily and then retreats upstairs. Charlie finds a woman’s dress and decides to play dress-up; Edna happens onto him and encourages him, bringing him downstairs to introduce to Daddy as an old friend of hers.

The surprising thing is how instantly womanly Charlie is. In his book The Silent Clowns, Walter Kerr says that the Tramp character’s strength and his undoing is that he can be whatever the situation requires: Ask him to be a boxer, he instantly turns into one; ask him to be a skater, and he’s the most fluid thing on wheels. (Kerr sees the downside as: Since this man can be everything, he can’t really be anything – he can’t be a single person, himself.) This movie asks Charlie to be a woman, and without the slightest bit of campiness, he delivers in spades. There are a couple of purse-lipped close-ups of Charlie-as-woman that must have sent some gender-benders of 1915 into spasms of delight.

The movie’s ending is roustabout, of course. It’s those moments that Chaplin “delivers” a woman without irony are the most interesting and funniest bits of A Woman.