Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder were one of the more bizarre comic pairings in film history. They were never, ever close to Laurel and Hardy but they were much better than Cheech and Chong, say. If they didn't get the right material they'd struggle, but when they do, like here, they'd make for a solidly entertaining time.Wally (Pryor) is blind and David (Wilder) is deaf. A tough conversation at the best of times, but when they become involved in a murder revolving around a stolen rare coin and end up on a hit list, it makes their disabilities and reliance on each other all the more important.
After taking in 'Stir Crazy' I made it a Wilder/Pryor double-bill with this, and the difference between the two couldn't be more apparent. Whereas 'Stir Crazy' had nothing intrinsically funny about it, making it very hard to get the laughs, 'See No Evil, Hear No Evil' has a funny concept at the heart of the film, making it difficult to screw up. The first accidental meeting between Wally and David is a scream, and the two have great fun milking the comic potential out of the situation. Happily it never mocks their afflictions either and doesn't poke fun at them nastily, instead having quite a sweet charm to their characterisations. A conversation between the two in a park actually becomes quite touching as they reflect on their lives.
They're both much more comfortable with the material here and are much funnier as a result. There's no over the top weirdness to try and keep things interesting here. It may be no classic to make you laugh long and hard, but it's consistently funny and keeps you smiling. There are 3 moments that do provoke a loud laugh however - Pryor with a shotgun, Wilder encouraging Pryor to shout in his ear and Pryor as a Swede. Another big laugh may be the unintentational one - Kevin Spacey as the English villain of the piece. Seeing Spacey as a hammy bad guy is funny enough, but with a killingly bad cut-glass accent just makes it worse. But when you watch it, look out for the mysterious lump on the side of Spacey's face that threatens to obliterate everything in its path. Jesus, Kevin what was that thing? Did you have an alien in there about to pop out? The thing's freaking HUGE.
The pace flags when the bothersome plot about the coin needs to be tidied up at the end, but other than that it's something to happily engage the laughter cells.It isn't a comic gem or a forgotten classic, but it does showcase the talents of the leads and creates some good laughs. Although you can't get away from the feeling that the concept should still be funnier, it's an 80's comedy that has stood the test of time. And when there's so many that haven't. it deserves our attention.