"Gene Wilder at his absolute silliest, which is both good news and bad."
Simple historical fact: Gene Wilder is a damn funny guy. Whether onscreen or supplying written material, the guy's had his hand in several classic comedies of the late 70s and early 80s. And with his well-deserved popularity came the inevitable Vanity Project. Wilder wrote, produced, directed and starred in 1977's "The World's Greatest Lover", so love it or hate it - you know who to thank.Some of my fondest cinematic memories are populated by Gene Wilder; Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Stir Crazy, Silver Streak, The Frisco Kid and of course Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were regular staples on the Weinberg television, so clearly I'm a bit inclined to give Mr. Wilder a break in relation to his 'lesser works'.
Over the past few years I've searched out a few of the more obscure Gene Wilder titles (The Adventures of Shrelock Holmes' Smarter Brother and Quackser Fortune Has a Brother in the Bronx are among the oddball efforts) and had some fun with most of 'em. The World's Greatest Lover was a tough one to track down, but cable TV presented it to me a few nights ago.
Call it a mixed blessing.
It seems that without a crafty wit like Mel Brooks around to shape the extreme slapstick into something artistic, Wilder the director is free to indulge himself in the most amazingly goofy ways. For every bit of wacko humor that does work in The World's Greatest Lover, there are sadly about 7 others that either run on WAY too long or simply thud audibly onto the celluloid.
The plot sees "Rudy Valentine" traveling to Hollywood to become the next Rudolph Valentino. Inspired by Rainbow Studios new "World's Greatest Lover" talent search, Rudy and his mousy wife Annie (Carol Kane, easily looking as lovely as she's EVER looked) show up in Tinseltown...and much wackiness ensues. Rudy bumbles his way through screen tests while Annie ends up being mistaken for a hooker.
There's a solid handful of schtick in the movie that's well worthy of some hearty laughs - but there are also huge lengthy gaps populated solely by cornball gags and horribly belabored banter. The movie certainly looks impressive enough, featuring a surprisingly impressive 1920's production design for such a resoundingly silly movie.
Wilder's got the lion's share of the gags and they range from periodically inspired to distressingly forced. Likewise, Dom DeLuise ocassionally delivers something worthwhile though this one hardly represents his best efforts. A young Carol Kane is all wide-eyed innocence and cuteness; her scenes with Wilder represent some of the movie's high points. Overall The World's Greatest Lover is a textbook 3-star movie. Fans will have some fun with it; others need not track it down at all.I know a few people who LOVE this obscure little slapschtick from back in their younger days; I can see why. It's a broad and amiable and very silly comedy. The best moments are certainly worth seeing (particularly if, like me, you simply love to see Gene Wilder work) though the film as a whole is screamingly inconsistent.