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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.69%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 23.08%
Pretty Bad61.54%
Total Crap: 7.69%

1 review, 7 user ratings

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End, The (1978)
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by Jack Sommersby

"Oh, Death Where is Thy Entertainment Value?"
2 stars

One of those odd pictures that either hits or misses, and this one strikes out at just about every time at bat.

Burt Reynolds both stars in and directs the black comedy The End, which is unfortunate in that his acting and directing simply do not deliver the goods this time around. As the movie opens, Reynolds's ace Santa Barbara commercial real-estate salesman Sonny Lawson has just found out he's afflicted with a rare "toxic blood disease" (as opposed to a non-toxic blood disease?), and has between three months and a year to live; and the story isn't five minutes underway before Reynolds's supposed-to-be-amusing emoting starts getting on our nerves -- he loudly cries and loudly whines like a five-year-old not getting his cookies and milk, and he repeats and repeats this to where we're left watching a usually first-rate comic actor embarrassing himself with all this unvaried hamminess. In fact, the performance is so overwrought we find ourselves backing away from the screen so we can get some distance from Reynolds, which was a first for me. Even as far back as the 1969 Shark!, Reynolds effortlessly held his own on the screen with the charisma and confidence of a born entertainer, and though his career choices haven't exactly been challenging (with the exception of John Boorman's Deliverance, though his star vehicle Smokey and the Bandit was enormously enjoyable) he's wisely stayed within the given parameters of the characters he's taken on. Not here, though -- Reynolds the director let Reynolds the actor out on too long a leash; actually, it's more like Reynolds has been unleashed upon us, and there's hardly a moment when we're glad he's around, which is particularly detrimental in that he's in every single scene. (Dudley Moore, I think, could've brought more to the party.) Sonny decides on suicide, and he tries saying goodbye to his ex-wife and teenage daughter but can't bring himself to be the bearer of the most fateful of bad news, so he tries overdosing on sleeping pills but is unsuccessful; he wakes up in a psychiatric hospital, appalled he's been involuntarily committed because attempted suicide is against the law. There he encounters the paranoid-schizophrenic Marlon (Dom DeLuise), who's nuttier than a thousand mad hatters and is more than willing to help Sonny carry out his suicidal wish, which takes some creativity being that such a hospital is devoid of the necessary instruments to carry such a thing out -- to Sonny's chagrin, there are no mirrors to be made into shards, and the buildings aren't nearly high enough to insure a fatal splat.

Maybe there's potential in a comedy centering on suicide, but the screenwriter, Jerry Belson, who wrote the fine Michael Ritchie-directed Smile in between fourteen years of numerous television assignments, hasn't found it. But could anyone? Sonny being reduced to trying to crush his head in a motorized hospital bed isn't exactly a laugh riot, and a scene with him and Marlon discussing viable other death options goes on forever to where the opposite effect is achieved -- we want them to do each other in so we can be spared the banality of it all. The two-dimensionality of the characters and pasty story construction are indicative of a writer who started with a mere plot gimmick and sprinkled only the bare requisites onto it to pass muster, but because the people on the screen are cliches and the story so half-thought-out we keep expecting to see commercial breaks -- like most TV sitcom writers, Belson gives every scene its own built-in climax rather than building the scenes dramatically and narratively. As a result, The End is more a series of vignettes than an organically sound movie, and because Reynolds doesn't shape the sequences or get any momentum going, the loose stitching is made even more apparent. Reynolds's only other directing job was the white-trash action picture Gator, and it also plodded and ran out of gas by the thirty-minute mark; at least here he's more comfortable with composition and imparting something of a visual interpretation onto the material, though I kept thinking how much livelier the proceedings could've been had the more imaginative, technically accomplished Blake (The Pink Panther) Edwards taken over. Belson isn't untalented, so a few scenes do manage to score. The usually-unbearable Robby Benson has some good moments as a first-year priest who finds himself confessing more to Sonny his own insecurities than listening to Sonny's first confession in twenty-two years ("This is my dime, okay?" Sonny complains). Comedy director Carl Reiner is boisterously vivid as a terminally-ill psychiatrist whose luck runs out right after giving Sonny a rousing pep talk. And when Sonny is leaving his parents' apartment and walks back into the living room to give his mother what he thinks will be his last kiss, it's very touching. But these involve actors in cameo roles, while DeLuise never finds the right inspired notes, and Sally Field, as Sonny's flaky girlfriend, struggles with conveying eccentricity. The title song is by the second-rate Paul Williams, the Waylon Jennings of the six-pack crowd.

Prescription: Skip it.

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originally posted: 02/25/14 06:01:59
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User Comments

12/08/17 Lee Nicholson Paul Williams....Second rate? 5 stars
4/23/14 Avery Hemming A great idea that didn't work in this movie. 1 stars
4/11/14 EDWARD BENITEZ terrible movie. The only good thing about it is Dom DeLuise 2 stars
8/20/07 mr.mike recall it as self-indulgent and unfunny. 2 stars
6/06/06 CTT The laughs simply are not there 3 stars
11/21/03 R.W. Welch Okay black comedy. Drags a bit til DeLuise comes in. 3 stars
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  10-May-1978 (R)



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