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Thin Man Goes Home, The
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by MP Bartley

"Even sober, Nick Charles is great company."
4 stars

One of the most striking things about the fifth entry in the Thin Man series (apart from the fact that Nick Charles is now definitely seen as the titular Thin Man, rather like how Inspector Closeau was often mistaken as the actual Pink Panther) is that Nick Charles goes through the entire film without taking a sip of booze, getting by on cider instead. This is because it was the first Thin Man film to be made during wartime, and thus the character had a temperance to reflect the liquor rationing prevalent at the time. The other noteworthy thing is how this fifth film in ten years still maintains a remarkably high level of quality.

Returning to his family home in a sleepy little town with Norah (Myrna Loy), Nick (William Powell) has nothing but a little rest and relaxation on his mind. But everyone in town refuses to believe he isn't on a case and sure enough, a dead body literally turns up on his doorstep; a corpse linked to a painting in town that a sinister group of people are after (in an eventual plot twist that is another nod to the wartime period).

This film sees Richard Thorpe step into the breach to direct after WS van Dyke had directed the first four and he takes much the same approach. It's a film that is fleet of foot and breezes through the intricate, but logical plot with ease. Thorpe has clearly studied the predecessors and as well as some sumptuously framed scenes, has obviously taken notes on how Dyke got the best out of a complicated plot and the wonderful chemistry between the two stars. The one-liners and slapstick are given time to breathe and he keeps the plot ticking over wonderfully as other bodies start to pile up around Nick's feet.

His hometown is one stuffed full of eccentrics and oddballs; from Nick's comically disapproving father, highly unimpressed with the world and characters that Nick deals with; to the local art dealer who takes everything far too literally. It's an approach that gives the film colour and life and makes it constantly entertaining even if the sheer familiarity of the characters and narrative means we're never really surprised by anything that happens here.

Powell is wonderful as ever, undercutting his laidback exterior with just the hint of a steely core underneath (there's a terrific scene where he confronts a local financier threatening his father's hospital and ends with an icy threat of his own, beautifully delivered) and, as ever, delivers a dry witticism like no-one else.

What's really interesting, however, is that this is a film where, for once, he's eclipsed by Loy. Norah gets lot more to do as usual, and every scene where she takes centre stage is a joy. From her hilarious description at one of Nick's past cases that horrifies his father, to one of the best delivered punchlines you're likely to hear (it comes when she's talking to Asta about the birthday present she's bought Nick) and to her utterly inept attempts to tail a suspect, Loy grabs the material she's given and devours it with relish.

It's altogether a breezy, classy and witty way to spend 100 minutes although the climax involving Nick sitting everyone down in a room to explain who the murderer is and how they did it, is by now a little tired - even if Norah is kind enough to point out to us all this is how it always happens.

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originally posted: 08/02/10 03:08:11
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User Comments

8/22/10 Kim Dobbertin You can't go wrong with Nick, Nora, and Asta! Fun movies. 5 stars
8/02/10 Ronald Holst Boring Boring Boring 2 stars
10/11/08 Annie G Even without booze (wartime film) this is a good addition to the series. New Asta stinks! 4 stars
6/16/04 tatum Hilarious look at Nick's homelife 5 stars
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  DVD: 02-Aug-2005

  25-Mar-1945 (U)


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