The Great Race Review

It’s been a while since I saw a film that was nearly 3 hours. Out of all the films I wouldn’t have guessed that a comedy like this would be one that would have such a long run time. It just would have struck me as a bit unlikely. Still, it does accomplish a lot in the time that it has. It probably could have trimmed some of the scenes a bit to be honest but at the very least it won’t be a film that you forget anytime soon. The Great Race really did feel like a huge ordeal that went past a whole country.

The film starts with introducing us to the contrast between Leslie and Professor Fate. Leslie is one of those guys who is a complete star and succeeds in everything he does. Everyone throws themselves at the guy and he is able to escape from a balloon in mid-air while tied up. He’s an ace driver and is talented at all he does. Then you have Fate who is incompetent at everything he attempts and everything turns out badly for him. No matter what he tries, Leslie is always one step ahead of him. It’s at the point where even if he isn’t outright mocking Fate, the villain takes it personally. When he finds out that Leslie has decided to have a race from New York to Paris, Fate knows he has to join. If he is able to defeat Leslie here in front of the whole world then he will have finally gotten his revenge. Can he really pull this off though?

Yes, the race does actually last for the duration of the movie. This is due in large part to the fact that nobody can possibly go this whole distance without breaks though. They stop at many different towns along the way ranging from Kingdom revolt to a small town where they want to show off their hospitality. Leslie is always ready to waste some time since he’s sure that Fate is no threat and Fate always ends up stopping as well. After all, he can’t win due to Leslie lowering his guard. He wants to defeat the guy fair and square.

There is one other big player in the film and that is Maggie. She is very vocal about being the first female reporter ever. She forces the head of the paper to let her into the race and to cover it that way. You have to give her this, she is definitely very confident in her abilities. She is willing to challenge anyone on anything to prove that she can hold her own. Of course, challenging Leslie isn’t the best bet since this guy is already more advanced than most characters. She was a fencing champion for example but so was he so that didn’t go well. He’s just too skilled.

We get a lot of good back and forth between the characters though. Maggie tends to lose out on these exchanges but she does put up a good effort each time which is the important thing. Then finally we have Fate who gets wrecked by everyone throughout the movie. He’s usually the punch line for each joke so as you can imagine things don’t go particularly well for him. He is a genius to an extent as he can build just about anything but always finds a way to mess it up. His character arc can be rather tragic but then you remember he’s a villain so you can go back to chuckling at him. He does help give the film a lot of energy though because he is a big part of what makes the film fun.

Of course, it all depends on how much you enjoy this humor style. It’s a very retro style with the heavy emphasis on slapstick and physical gags as characters get blown up and beaten left and right. We even get a wild west type bar fight where the characters are knocking each other around. This part definitely felt like a parody of the usual kind of fight with how over the top it was. The characters were literally tearing the place down as they fell through windows or into the stairs. It’s an extended fight that definitely worked really well. There’s also a big pie fight that happened later on but nothing can beat the fisticuffs.

There is even a sword fight later on or I guess it may be more effective to say a fencing battle. Part of the fun in having such a long run time is that you can take time to do all sorts of things. Now, if one plot had to be shortened though, I would have reduced the length of screen time for the King in the plot where he switched places with Fate. I have to be honest, the King wasn’t that amusing. His whole gimmick is using his crazy laugh over and over again but he doesn’t have much personality beyond that. You’ll feel like rolling your eyes at the guy by the end.

The movie is at its best when it’s straight up acting like a parody. Fate infiltrating Leslie’s board of directors meeting was pretty hype since his disguise almost held up. Using a race to finally end the various car rivalries was nice as well. Fate’s plans all blowing up in his face was always amusing as well. Perhaps it could have been repetitive if the same gag as used over and over but it was always a different thing that stopped him. This is one area where the Beach films could learn a thing or two as the motor gangs there could be very repetitive. It shows what a good difference in writing ability can achieve.

In a film that is as over the top as this one it makes sense that not all of the jokes would land though. On the whole I would say this one got more right than it got wrong. It’s just a pleasant film that is fun to follow along with. The movie sets up the dynamic with Leslie and Fate very quickly which is effective since it stays in place for the rest of the film. We also have a subplot with the newspaper agency trying to survive as the Woman’s Rights movement takes over the building. At one point the leader is even taken down and forced to plead insanity as he vanished. Now, none of this is outright stated on how it happens but one moment the leader is there taking names and the next he is at Happy Farms and his wife now owns the company. I was not expecting that so it was a good gag.

With a movie going for as humorous a tone as this you can expect that it would have some fun with the ending. It’s a bold one to be sure but in universe I think everyone would be absolutely livid with the main character. The race is quite important after all so messing with it is definitely not a good idea. We get one last big explosion for the film as well which was pretty neat. The writing was on point and at the end of the day that is crucial for any film.

Overall, The Great Race is a very fun film. We get a lot of great banter between the characters like Maggie and Leslie. I could have done without their romance there as it definitely felt rather rushed though and it also felt like Leslie would try and dodge the debates by pulling the moves on her. I’d have preferred they stayed insulting each other the whole movie as that would have made for even more great dialogue. It’s also ironic that she is the one plan of Fate’s that actually worked rather well but in this case that was not a good thing for him. There are a lot of other events that happen throughout the film as the race has numerous pitstops but you’ll have a good time checking them out as they arrive. This film is very much a relic of its time but one that works in every era.

Overall 7/10

The Odd Couple Review

It’s time to look at the original Odd Couple film. The TV show was always pretty fun but how would the movie fare in comparison? Naturally you aren’t going to go in expecting it to beat the actual show but if it could still be a fun adventure and work as an episode then that would be a success. I can safely say that this was a pretty fun movie. It’s definitely aged well and the concept is timeless.

The film starts off with Oscar having a card game with his buddies as per their weekly routine. Initially I actually thought that one of the friends was actually Oscar since he was certainly pretty confident in his chair and smoking to boot. They’re all having a good time until they realize that Felix has been out a while and may be trying to destroy himself. Fortunately that guy managed to pull his back so now he was unable to do it and makes it back home. Oscar realizes that Felix can’t be by himself for a while so he suggests that Felix moves in and then they will be roommates. Felix agrees and so their story begins. However, Felix may prove to be a bit more of a handful than Oscar ever could have imagined.

Right away you may be on team Oscar here as he was willing to make a pretty big change in his life just to help Felix. He was perfectly content living by himself and only did this because Felix still seemed to be a bit crazy. He’s also quite patient with Felix’s antics. Felix chases off all of Oscar’s friends, makes him miss the big moment in a Baseball game, is embarrassingly loud at restaurants, cries a lot, etc. Oscar is able to look past this since he does want to be a good friend. Oscar’s not perfect and he’s certainly not the cleanest guy around, but he always seems pretty reasonable.

Then we’ve got Felix. He’s a lot harder to sympathize with since Felix ends up taking everything too seriously and just makes things way too difficult for Oscar. Some things just feel deliberate like his allergies. Even if his method is effective, he just comes across as too socially insensitive. Felix either doesn’t realize that half of the things he does are so extreme or he doesn’t care. Both options don’t really help his case all that much. So when the two characters inevitably fight and Felix thinks about moving out you have to admit that it’s the right call. If the bridge can’t be mended then at the end of the day it is still Oscar’s place and he can make living there pretty uncomfortable for Felix.

The film goes at a pretty good pace. Some scenes may be a little long like the opening where the main characters think that Felix might die though. It went on for such a large chunk that I was wondering if the film’s main story was going to include those friends the whole time. It’s a fun scene all around though so maybe the length was necessary to ensure the writers could throw all of the jokes in there. I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of the friends really. They seemed decently nice even if they were on the completely opposite side of Oscar in how tolerant they were of Felix. They didn’t even give him a chance.

I’d say that the writing is pretty solid as well. The characters are mostly reasonable and the contrast between Oscar and Felix is depicted well. You can almost instantly see how the dynamic will play out because the two characters’ traits can be guessed as soon as they appear. If there is a weak point in the movie it would have to be the part with the Pigeon sisters. They aren’t all that entertaining and are probably the most exaggerated characters. They laugh at everything and seem like rather odd neighbors for sure. the “romance” angle here is mostly just used for comedy as you know Oscar has no shot as long as Felix is around. While the scene does give Oscar a big reason to finally leave Felix for good it could have been done another way.

The climax is also why Felix certainly couldn’t end up being a good character for me. Timid or not, he totally deserted Oscar there when the main character needed him the most. When you start something you gotta see it through and Felix did not. As a result he basically betrayed Oscar. This gets even worse in the ending where we find out who he ran to while making everyone else worry. Felix is a humorous character so I’ll give him that. The guy has his moments, but when the chips are down he is someone that you absolutely cannot count on. He will let you down every time.

As far as the soundtrack goes there is really one big theme, but it has certainly gotten iconic over the years. The TV show remixed it a bit, but if you’ve seen the show you will still recognize the theme as soon as it shows up. It’s a pretty good slice of life theme and adds some atmosphere to the first scene of the movie. Based on the beginning you actually may get the wrong idea about the genre for a little while which is nice. The film did a good job with the misdirect there which really started the film off on a good note.

Overall, The Odd Couple is a pretty fun film. The jokes are well delivered and the dynamic between the main characters works well for this kind of plot. Oscar is definitely the guy I was rooting for as his more laid back approach just makes him a lot easier to get along with. Still, Felix isn’t as bad as he could have been as with these kinds of films one character usually ends up being super unreasonable. Felix doesn’t falter much until the end of the film. If you haven’t seen this film yet then I’d recommend checking it out. It’s just a pretty balanced movie that makes for a good watch.

Overall 7/10

The Fortune Cookie Review

It’s time for an old school comedy with this film. Fortune Cookie is certainly a winner and the film’s plot is helped out by a great script. I also give the film props for the fact that a Fortune Cookie actually does appear in the film so the title wasn’t too vague. Forget hidden meanings, I would have been a little upset if the actual fortune cookie had not made an appearance here. The film can be a bit sad, but for the most part it is just a great joyride in the end.

Harry was a photographer who was covering a Cleveland Browns game for the NFL. Unfortunately, he was a little close to the action and the punt returner ended up hitting him rather hard. Harry was knocked unconscious and taken to the hospital in case he may have been injured rather seriously. This wasn’t the case and Harry was ready to go back home, but that’s when his brother Willie shows up. Willie lets Harry know that he can easily earn 1 million dollars out of this if he’ll just pretend to be injured. Harry doesn’t like this plan since he’s always been a law abiding citizen, but Willie lets him know that his divorced wife may come back to him if he goes ahead with the deal. She even calls and pretends to care about him so Harry decides to go through with the plan. Can he really keep up the charade long enough for the NFL to back down?

Willie is really the character who steals the show here. He really knows his stuff when it comes to conning people about fake injuries. Not only does he know a lot of cases from back in the day, but he knows how to merge fact and fiction in order to make a very believable narrative. Willie is an incredibly charismatic character and he fills the film with good one liners throughout. He can be a little mean, the film also makes a point of showing that he’s not really a good guy. The one thing that he does really like is money though and he is good at making it. He’s no hero, but he is the character that the film needed to boost it to the next level. The NFL keeps on trying to trick the heroes with underhanded tactics like bugging the apartment, but Willie sees through them every single time and is always ahead of the game. Without him, the film would have been over before it could have even begun.

Harry is not quite as good. In the end he makes the right choice about not keeping up the lie, but the process of getting there was quite painful. He is extremely naive whenever the ex wife appears. It’s extremely obvious that she does not care for him one bit and just wants the money, but he doesn’t seem to suspect anything until he finally breaks down at the end and takes it out on everyone. He is also very wishy washy at times as he keeps on acting as if he doesn’t want to go through with the plan before letting Willie convince him. It’s almost as if it is just an act he is putting on so he looks reluctant before going through with it. It’s just really hard to like Harry even if he is portrayed as the “nice” character. He simply lets himself get pulled along for the ride for too long before double thinking it.

No worries, we have an array of supporting characters at the ready who are solid enough to cover for Harry. The Doctor from one of the first scenes is great as he talks back to Willie the whole time and certainly isn’t afraid to dish out the insults. He may have been played like a fiddle, but he kept them honest. There was also the shady doctor who suspected that the whole thing was fake from the start, but ultimately he could not prove it. The 3 NFL lawyers were also fairly great as they tried their best to take Willie down a peg or two. They may have lost every fight, but I liked the way that they sat down and discussed the situation before making a move. It didn’t work out, but some plans just don’t in the end. They still gave it their all and helped make the film so fun.

Meanwhile, we have a character who is played seriously. Boom Boom Jackson is the character who injured Harry in the first place and he wants to rectify his mistake by helping Willie as much as possible. The thing is, he is a character that you don’t want to see at times. That’s because you can kind of feel bad for him since this is obviously upsetting. How would you feel if you may have just crippled a person for life right? So, Jackson is a very sympathetic character and the fact that you know how he is being used just makes it all the worse. However, as Willie was my favorite character, I was rooting for him the entire time. It was a conflict of interest. I’d say that the film did drop the ball with Jackson towards the end though as he probably took things way too hard. He did his part to help Harry out, but that’s no real reason to start missing meetings, tanking at the games, and getting into bar room fights. It felt a little forced to be honest so that Harry would be pressured into making the right call.

This film certainly did have a lot of fun with itself. You can tell from all of the super over dramatic characters. Take the mom for instance, she spent the entire film being really hysterical and crying nonstop. She felt like a parody character. This colorful cast of characters ended up being a really strong pack. As mentioned before, the writing is also strong and in the end this film is really complete.

I also have to give some credit to the ending because it was handled really well. By “the ending” I’m talking about Willie’s scene by the way. He’s very good at thinking on his feet and immediately knows how to turn a bad situation into a good one. Harry may have bailed out on him, but he realized that now he can sue the NFL for breaking the constitution by bugging and spying on his house the entire time. He has no proof so it’ll be tough, but he can definitely pull this off. I wouldn’t mind a sequel to this film!

Overall, The Fortune Cookie is one of the best films that I’ve seen in a long time. It has a perfect blend of humor and more humor as Willie steals the show here. The mental battle between him and the NFL is really why you’ll be at the edge of your seat for this film, but all of the characters really do a good job here. The unlikable ex-wife is made to be a bad character of course, but at least she is also super exaggerated. Think of it as Harry’s ultimate moral crisis. Can he make the right move while being surrounded by bad influences everywhere? I do wish that he had a stronger resolve and hesitated less, but you can’t be perfect and I suppose this gave Willie more room to shine since he was always the smartest guy in the room.

Overall 8/10