by Jay Seaver
"Why Worry?" is silent comedy distilled into a powerful, concentrated form. Every one of its sixty minutes is packed with gags and absurdity, supplying jokes fast and furious in a style only matched by animated cartoons. Minute for minute, it's one of the funniest movies ever made.The premise is fearsomely simple: Hypochondriac millionaire Harold Van Pelham (Harold Lloyd) decides to journey to Central America for his health, valet (Wallace Howe) and nurse (Jobyna Ralston) in tow. Unbeknownst to him, the country he's visiting is about to erupt into revolution, and after he and the servants get separated, he finds himself partnered up with the immensely strong - and just plain immense - Colosso (Johan Aasen), trying to make his way back to hotel for the relaxing sabbatical he'd been expecting.
"One of the very funniest movies ever."
Harold van Pelham is one of Lloyd's funnier creations, a robust specimen who is nevertheless convinced of his own infirmity, and so wealthy and used to a life of luxury that he is blithely dismissive of any real dangers which surround him. This doesn't make him stupid, by any means; like most Harold Lloyd characters, he is eminently practical and inventive when faced with a challenge, whether it be pulling an aching tooth out of Colosso's mouth or giving the appearance that the fort where he's holed up is better-defended than it actually is (remember that Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs carries a stick with five rifles attached, so that Yosemite Sam just sees five rifles marching in time? Cribbed from here). He looks calmly oblivious when his wheelchair is careening out of control, and despite this being a silent film, one of the great joys is how Lloyd delivers his lines. It's theatrical, but in-character, and effective enough that the audience will remember hearing the lines, rather than seeing them, especially his shocked demand that his nurse fill him in on why she never told him that he loved her.
Ah, the nurse. This was Jobyna Ralston's first of six turns as Harold Lloyd's leading lady, and I must say, I developed a bit of a retro-crush on her, despite the fact that she died six years before I was even born. I mean, I liked her in the other movies I saw her in, but none of those had her squeezing into a tight pair of pants so that her American clothes wouldn't stick out in a crowd, with full "wow, the girl next door is sexy" effect. It's a crying shame that her lisp ended her career after a couple talkies (one of which is lost). Still, that would be a decade in the future, and for this movie she's a winsome, grounded counterpoint to Lloyd's nuttiness.
A lot of the heavy lifting - literally and figuratively - is done by Johan Aasen as Colosso. Aasen's IMDB entry lists him as being 2.67m tall (eight feet, nine inches), and though my initial impression is "that can't be right", he does rather tower over Lloyd, which I initially put down to clever cinematography. Colosso is Aasen's only really noteworthy role, but it's a likable one, as he does things such as carry a cannon on his back that Harold fires at pursuing soldiers, or casually throwing people aside like rag dolls in a fight. The character is a shaggy, unkempt fellow, described as being a partisan in this battle but clearly more concerned with his nasty toothache. His titanic size is part of the gag, of course, but he plays the straight man while Harold gets knocked around trying to extract the tooth.
So, throw these three in with a handful of others, and comedy happens. Constantly; there's not a minute that goes by without something funny happening. The whole thing is surreal at times, between Harold's initial disconnection from the real world, Aasen's impossible proportions, and the high concepts which succeed in execution, too.This may just be Harold Lloyd's best film. That's a title often given to "Safety Last", but minute for minute, there aren't many movies that deliver as many laughs as "Why Worry?" - by Lloyd or anyone else.
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originally posted: 08/12/05 06:41:25