Bronson Pinchot

Blame It on the Bellboy (1992, Mark Herman)

Herman opens Blame It on the Bellboy with his two weakest features—and the film’s full of weaknesses so to start with the worst ones? It’s sort of impressive he set it up to immediately stumble.

First, Andreas Katsulas’s mobster. The film takes place in Venice and Katsulas plays the only Venetian. He plays the role with an absurd New York accent. It’s an incompetent performance.

Second, Bronson Pinchot’s titular bellboy, who sets the film’s wacky events into motion by not understanding English. The surprising thing about Bellboy is the absence of a plagiarism suit as Herman rips off scenes and dialogue from “Fawlty Towers,” apparently telling Pinchot just to ape Andrew Sachs’s Manuel on that program. Unfortunately, even in someone else’s role, Pinchot can’t give a good performance.

Then the principals show up. Bryan Brown, Dudley Moore and Richard Griffiths. Griffiths is the best as minor British politician looking for sleazy romance in Venice. Brown’s an assassin, Moore’s a nebbish on assignment from a bad job. Moore actually manages to be likable; Brown barely makes an impression. In about half his scenes, he doesn’t even speak, just nods.

The female cast is Patsy Kensit, Penelope Wilton and Alison Steadman. The script’s response to the character enduring a sexual trauma is to make her comically unsympathetic. Steadman is initially treated well (and her performance is good) before Herman too makes her a target for audience laughter.

Only Steadman keeps afloat, giving the film’s best performance.

Herman makes a bad Bellboy.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mark Herman; director of photography, Andrew Dunn; edited by Michael Ellis; music by Trevor Jones; production designer, Gemma Jackson; produced by Steve Abbott and Jennifer Howarth; released by Hollywood Pictures.

Starring Dudley Moore (Melvyn Orton), Bryan Brown (Mike Lawton), Richard Griffiths (Maurice Horton), Andreas Katsulas (Scarpa), Patsy Kensit (Caroline Wright), Alison Steadman (Rosemary Horton), Penelope Wilton (Patricia Fulford) and Bronson Pinchot (Bellboy).


Second Sight (1989, Joel Zwick)

There are some funny lines in Second Sight. Not many, but some. And they’re good, laugh out loud lines. It’d be hard for John Larroquette, reacting to Bronson Pinchot acting like an idiot, not to get some laughs.

The whole thing feels like a “what I did on summer hiatus” for Larroquette and Pinchot. It’s impossible not to think about their television series when watching the film, though the Boston location shooting does help. Director Zwick is rather boring, but the film’s visibly shot on location, so regardless of his inability, the film does have a fair amount of texture.

Stuart Pankin rounds out the trio–Pinchot’s the wacky guy, Larroquette’s the straight man (just like their TV shows) and Pankin’s sort of the second straight man. He’s mostly support for Pinchot, but manages to have a bigger role. Pinchot does voices, acts goofy and does manage to be funny a couple times. Larroquette’s somewhat sturdy, a character actor thrown into a leading man role. He’s competent.

What Second Sight does right (rhyme unintentional) is portray Pinchot’s psychic abilities (complete with possessions and magic) as matter-of-fact. There’s no discovery of them, they’re real and they’re acknowledged. It makes Larroquette reacting to them a lot funnier.

The movie gets a little tired when it’s handling the case (they’re private investigators) but it’s genial enough as a bland comedy. Bess Armstrong, John Schuck and Christine Estabrook are fine in supporting roles.

A better director probably would have helped a lot.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joel Zwick; written by Tom Schulman and Patricia Resnick; director of photography, Dana Christiaansen; edited by David Ray; music by John Morris; production designer, James L. Schoppe; produced by Mark Tarlov; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Larroquette (Wills), Bronson Pinchot (Bobby), Bess Armstrong (Sister Elizabeth), Stuart Pankin (Preston Pickett Ph.D.), John Schuck (Manoogian), James Tolkan (Coolidge), William Prince (Cardinal O’Hara), Michael Lombard (Bishop O’Linn), Christine Estabrook (Priscilla Pickett) and Marisol Massey (Maria).


Risky Business (1983, Paul Brickman), the director’s cut

There are three things I want to discuss about Risky Business (there isn’t room to cover the fourth, why Tom Cruise is so excellent in this film then mostly terrible for the next twelve years). The subjects are director’s cuts, teen movies and this film’s portrayal of women. All three are somewhat interconnected and maybe the director’s cut of the film is the best place to start.

Risky Business has no official director’s cut. One would have to make it for him or herself. It’s worth figuring out how to do. The original version of Risky Business, for those who don’t know, ends with Tom Cruise–an upper-middle class, three point one GPA white high school student–getting into Princeton because he’s running a brothel when the admissions interviewer shows up. It’s a slam dunk for American capitalism and, famously, not the ending director Paul Brickman originally went with. I think Leonard Maltin even mentions it in his capsule review….

I sat waiting for it, having heard about it for eleven plus years, knowing what was coming next… only for it never to arrive. Something else happens instead, something wonderful.

It’s hard to pick an adjective to describe the film’s portrayal of women–particularly Rebecca De Mornay’s late teens call girl (it’s always implied she’s only a little bit older than Cruise’s high school senior). The film objectifies her initially, then defames her as a con artist. Neither are really positive. The first makes sense for a movie about a teenager who ends up running a brothel with his classmates as customers. The second moves the story along. Where Risky Business is singular among the popular teen movies of the 1980s (it’s telling Business came just before the onslaught of John Hughes’s pictures, which demolished the genre in its infancy) is in the contradiction. That first sense, the objectification sense, it’s a sham. De Mornay’s character is slowly revealed to be a vulnerable, intelligent, frightened young woman. Cruise discovers these things at the same rate the viewer does and the film’s perspective changes as he does. Risky Business has lots of narration and Cruise has to sell it all. He succeeds.

The film takes responsibility for its characters and their complex relationships–both implied and on screen–with their peers and their parents. It’s never cheap, which is what sets it so far apart from the decade’s subsequent teen films. I’m not sure if I can think, past Risky Business and Rebel Without a Cause of a “teen” picture so maturely told. But the director’s cut is what puts Business in this too small class.

IMDb sort of spoils the director’s cut ending for anyone interested, but only slightly. It’s impossible to communicate the scene and the effect in words, if only because Brickman–for a first time director–not only knows how to compose a shot and how to direct actors, he also knows how to pick music. The Tangerine Dream score in Risky Business does much of the film’s stylistic heavy lifting. Brickman does a handful of a snazzy moves–some with editing, some with the narration, some with lighting and slowing down the film (nothing ostentatious, but certainly a little different from the rest of his approach)–and the score tempers it. The snazzy moves seem more natural because the score’s already come in and prepared the viewer. It’s a beautiful fit.

The acting–not just Cruise and De Mornay, who are both fantastic and have a great chemistry (even though her career’s had a far different trajectory than his, they really ought to do another film together)–is great. Brickman assembles an amazing supporting cast. Joe Pantaliano has one of the flashier roles as Guido the Killer Pimp, who enjoys honey in his tea (Brickman’s deft touches are another joy). Bronson Pinchot’s actually really good, as is Curtis Armstrong (but less surprise with him). Bruce A. Young and Nicholas Pryor are also great in small roles.

I first saw Risky Business about twelve years ago. It impressed the hell out of me. I’ve seen it in between then and now and the last time, it didn’t. I’m not sure how the theatrical version would sit with me today–it’s hard to believe I’d think much less of it, given that amazing sequence (both filmmaking and acting) when Cruise heads into the city to find De Mornay–but the director’s cut is sublime.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Paul Brickman; directors of photography, Bruce Surtees and Reynaldo Villalobos; edited by Richard Chew; music by Tangerine Dream; production designer, William J. Cassidy; produced by Jon Avnet and Steve Tisch; released by the Geffen Company.

Starring Tom Cruise (Joel Goodsen), Rebecca De Mornay (Lana), Joe Pantoliano (Guido), Richard Masur (Rutherford), Bronson Pinchot (Barry), Curtis Armstrong (Miles), Nicholas Pryor (Joel’s Father), Janet Carroll (Joel’s Mother), Shera Danese (Vicki), Raphael Sbarge (Glenn) and Bruce A. Young (Jackie).


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