The visual design and look of "The Hudsucker Proxy" makes it nearly impossible for the story to compete. Undoubtedly, there are some entertaining sequences and moments, but when added up, they don't quite fit in to fill the void.An ambitious, backwoods recent college grad (Tim Robbins) from the Muncie School of Business has come to the city (presumably New York) to seek a place to implement his ideas. But without experience he's stuck in the tedious, harrowing, chaotic mailroom until he's renamed as the President of Hudsucker Industries after the founder jumps 44 floors ("45 counting the mezzanine.") to his death. They company intends to use their "imbecile" as a puppet for their benefit while he has plans of his own. Something's sure to form in the interim.
Written by the Coen Brothers' (Joel, the director, and Ethan, the producer) and Sam ("Darkman") Raimi, "Hudsucker" has a lot of concept or unique visions, but this bizarro-world comedy (though it's not as bizarre as "Barton Fink") continually finds itself sycophantically stumbling over its visual style. The production design and cinematography is extravagant and dazzlingly versimilitudinous --it deserves much recognition. (One of the most impressive attributes of "The Hudsucker Proxy" was the visual effects assisting the falling sequences, which replicate and blow away the point of origin, in Hitchcock's "Saboteur.")
While the sets and flair build, Robbins nicely does the naïve oaf. Paul Newman's character acting is too thick and plastering, while Jennifer Jason Leigh is stuck with an annoying, overbearing character (with an annoying nasal voice, though Leigh does look good). John Mahoney is enjoyable --over-the-top, but restricted unfortunately only to a few scenes. There are several other nice, transient roles, but just as many forgettable.
"The Hudsucker Proxy" isn't a horrible experience, far from it, but Coens' fans will eat it up. However, it's too esoteric to be able to recommend, and it just isn't worth the effort. (Though the product "for children" was a clever, unforeseeable development --unless you look too hard at the poster or video box.)Final Verdict: C-.