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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
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Average: 0%
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Total Crap87.5%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Hook, Line & Sinker
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Possibly the worst Jerry Lewis movie. No small achievement, that."
1 stars

Jerry Lewis. He's been the avatar of Bad Comedy for so long that it's easy to forget how big a star he was, once upon a time. First appearing in films in 1949--co-starring with Dean Martin until 1956, and solo after that--he had an string of box-office hits that wasn't broken until the cultural upheavals of the mid '60s rendered him unfashionable almost overnight. And though his movies rarely see him departing from his slapsticky idiot-boy shtick, they generally aren't that bad. Kinda silly and Hollywood-slick, yes; but also sometimes very funny, and in the case of something like THE BELLBOY (1960), surprisingly postmodern in its absurdist humor.

So HOOK, LINE & SINKER, made as Lewis' career was sinking faster than the TItanic, and less gracefully, is not really representative of his output, tempting as it may be to assume otherwise. But when Jerry Lewis sucked, he really sucked. There are black holes in the Andromeda galaxy that suck less hard than Lewis did when his judgment abandoned him. Let's not hedge our criticism any longer: This movie is a disaster. It is so consistently unfunny that it seems to have been made that way on purpose, suggesting some kind of PRODUCERS scenario where the principals involved would somehow benefit by manufacturing a turkey.

There's a much more likely explanation, however. Allow me to direct your attention to the credits, and behold the words that strike teror into moviegoers everywhere: "SCREENPLAY BY RODNEY AMATEAU." Yes, it's him, the director of THE STATUE (1971; "One of the worst movies ever perpetrated"--R. Ebert), SON OF HITLER (1978), and THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE (1987). Need I say more? Damn, I could end this review right here if I wanted.

But it's not altogether his fault. H, L & S finds Lewis in his comparatively "serious" (read: boring) mode, walking for the most part straight-facedly through a plot that admittedly isn't all that lame. Lewis plays a suburban dad who finds he has a heart condition that gives him only months to live. He decides to go out with a bang, setting off on a wild trip through Portugal (the authentic locations are one of the few plusses here) in which he racks up massive debts--before he finds he's not going to die after all. The only thing wrong with the storyline is that they forgot to include the laughs.

This movie is just not funny. Ever. The entire approach to comedy is off. The jokes are structured like so: first, we're presented with a scene in which we the audience think we know what's happening; then, a twist where we learn what's really going on. Lewis and company seem to have thought just doing that alone was enough to generate uncontrollable laughter.

Like the part where we see Lewis struggling with his fishing rod, like he's just caught a big one. Then we see that he's just playing with his dog, who has the hook in his mouth. Wow, that's hilarious. And take the scene where he's arm wrestling with some presumably big, muscular dude in a bar. The camera pulls back and we see he's actually competing with a woman. Who beats him. Let us pause this review for a moment while we all roll on the floor laughing. Imagine about fifty similar scenes strung together, and there you have HOOK, LINE & SINKER in a nutshell.

And stop me if you've heard this one before: Lewis pretends to be drowning in a pool, so he can be (get this!) rescued by the cute blonde lifeguard--oh, you have heard that before? A couple hundred times, you say?

We also have a fair number of jokes that get screwed up so badly that they don't immediately register as jokes. By which I mean you find yourself wondering if that bit you just witnessed was actually intended as humor. At one point we're treated to Lewis combing his hair in the mirror over and over and over, in different styles, until...uh, well, the scene just kind of ends, with no detectable punchline.

I'm not sure what else to say about a movie that manages to be even worse than Lewis' WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT?, and a good deal worse than the semi-classic Lewis films that you should be watching instead.

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originally posted: 11/29/05 17:33:22
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User Comments

9/06/11 george great 5 stars
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  07-May-1969 (G)



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