Marvin Hamlisch

Seems Like Old Times (1980, Jay Sandrich)

Seems Like Old Times is an enthusiastic homage to the screwball comedy. Most of the action takes place at Goldie Hawn’s house, where she’s trying to hide fugitive ex-husband Chevy Chase from current husband–and district attorney–Charles Grodin. She’s a public defender who takes in all of her clients, giving them jobs so they can provide comic relief in their interactions with Grodin and his straight-laced pals.

It’s not a successful homage to the screwball comedy, unfortunately. Neil Simon’s script doesn’t have the rapid fire dialogue. He lets Chase sleepwalk through the film. Chase has some charm and he’s got some decent moments, but he’s barely in the film. Old Times goes more on Hawn not having chemistry with Grodin than it does on rebuilding chemistry between Chase and Hawn. Maybe because the problem isn’t her marriage, but him being on the lamb. And barely in the movie.

But even if Simon’s script were full of rapid fire dialogue to give it that screwball comedy feel–outside the absurd yet domestic antics–director Sandrich wouldn’t know what to do with it. Because Simon occasionally goes have a phenomenal scene, usually involving Harold Gould’s judge. Gould’s doing a mild Groucho and it works beautifully. But Sandrich doesn’t direct his cast towards energy, quite the opposite. Grodin walks away with the middle half of the film just because he’s actually being active. Hawn’s reduced to sitting around and waiting for something to happen to her.

And even if Sandrich directed it all perfectly, Michael A. Stevenson wouldn’t cut it together well. He holds takes too long, holds reactions shots too long. Seems Like Old Times is too slow. Having a fast moving Marvin Hamlisch score only does so much, especially since it’s not a particularly good score. It’s got good moments, but overall, it leaves a lot to be desired.

The acting is all solid, some better than others. Hawn’s best when she’s not with Chase as Simon reduces her to the straight man while tranquilizing Chase to the point no one’s running the scene. She’s still Goldie Hawn, after all; she’s adorable. Chase’s funny. Grodin’s funny. Robert Guillaume’s funny. George Grizzard’s pretty good in a small part. Gould’s great. T.K. Carter’s kind of great; he’d be better if Simon gave him all strong material instead of occasionally falling back on young black kid with white folks humor.

Seems Like Old Times should be a lot better. But it’s still got some solid laughs, a lot of smiles and a reasonable amount of charm.



Directed by Jay Sandrich; written by Neil Simon; director of photography, David M. Walsh; edited by Michael A. Stevenson; music by Marvin Hamlisch; production designer, Gene Callahan; produced by Ray Stark; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Goldie Hawn (Glenda Parks), Charles Grodin (Ira Parks), Chevy Chase (Nicholas Gardenia), Robert Guillaume (Fred), Harold Gould (Judge John Channing), Yvonne Wilder (Aurora), T.K. Carter (Chester), Judd Omen (Dex), Marc Alaimo (B.G.) and George Grizzard (Governor).

Take the Money and Run (1969, Woody Allen)

Take the Money and Run kind of dangles on a line. It’s occasionally a screwball comedy–something the Marx Brothers would have done–and alternately a thought-out spoof of documentaries. The breeze moves the film’s direction and it’s hard to know where it’ll go next. Allen has a significant problem with the film’s structure, however, with the documentary makers never a part of the film. It’s never clear why they’re making a documentary about Allen’s incompetent criminal. As far as the film’s pacing goes, this oversight doesn’t have much negative effect. Take the Money and Run moves fairly well, only getting tedious in some of the longer scenes. Where it goes wrong is with the interviews. The people who are interviewed, the school teachers, the parents, the psychiatrists, don’t have a logical order. The clips are assembled for humorous effect. If a scene isn’t ending on a particularly funny note, in comes the interview clip with the punch line.

Allen’s fantastic as the lead, easily transitioning between the voiceover interview (he doesn’t appear on screen, as an interviewee, until the last shot, which doesn’t make any sense), the narrated segments (it’s a brilliant idea for a first film, especially a low budget one, because lots of it is just Allen walking around) and the actual acting scenes. His deliveries are all excellent and there’s a lot of physical humor in the film, smart physical humor, which benefits a great deal from his direction.

The film is alternately manic and placid. The narrated sequences can be as benign as Allen walking down a street or as excited as him robbing a bank. The humor’s quiet–for the most part–in both approaches. There are rarely any loud jokes and many expect the viewer to be paying attention–the one with the pants, for instance, isn’t funny unless the viewer is aware of how he or she was watching the scene.

The shot framing does not work for the documentary approach–I’m not sure why I’m harping so much on Take the Money and Run being a documentary spoof, except maybe the lack of direction and the reliance on narration–but Allen’s camera moves rather well. Or, more accurately, Allen knows how to move people in front of his camera. The editing is occasionally jumpy (and not in a way to lend itself to the concept), but it’s a decently made film. Marvin Hamlisch’s score does occasionally get to be a little much.

The supporting cast is mostly Janet Margolin. She does a good job, but her role isn’t particularly difficult. She’s just got to be too good for Allen and constantly show it.

Take the Money and Run, pardon the expression, runs out of steam towards the end, when it becomes one sketch after another. The sketches aren’t particular to the film, they’d work just as well on a variety show, and Allen can’t quite come up with a cohesive gesture. It’s a fine first film, though, but its execution is its greatest success.

However, the Cool Hand Luke spoof is hilarious.



Directed by Woody Allen; written by Allen and Mickey Rose; director of photography, Lester Shorr; edited by Paul Jordan and Ron Kalish; music by Marvin Hamlisch; produced by Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins; released by Cinerama Releasing Corporation.

Starring Woody Allen (Virgil Starkwell), Janet Margolin (Louise), Marcel Hillaire (Fritz), Jacquelyn Hyde (Miss Blair), Lonny Chapman (Jake), Jan Merlin (Al), James Anderson (Chain Gang Warden), Howard Storm (Fred), Mark Gordon (Vince), Micil Murphy (Frank), Minnow Moskowitz (Joe Agneta), Nate Jacobson (The Judge), Grace Bauer (Farm House Lady), Ethel Sokolow (Mother Starkwell), Dan Frazer (The Psychiatrist), Henry Leff (Father Starkwell) and Mike O’Dowd (Michael Sullivan); narrated by Jackson Beck.

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