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Certifiably Jonathan
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by Katharine Leis

"A film that shows Jonathan Winters has definitely still got it."
3 stars

Certifiably Jonathan starts out to be a charming documentary on the past comedic work of 78 year old Jonathan Winters, and an introduction to his entire other career as an incredible painter.

Old footage of some of his acts from black and white television shows had the audience laughing out loud.Even though the jokes he was telling were probably fifty years old, his material was still amazingly fresh. There was one piece where he did an improvisation with a stick that was just genius. Even if one had never seen him before, his comedic gift was soon made evident.
The audience was then introduced to his paintings. Full of symbolism and appearing somewhat Native American, his work here is again, genius. In the art world, he has a good reputation, but it seems more for him as a celebrity comedian turned artist than for the work itself. Jim Carrey is seen attending one of his gallery showings, and his admiration for Winters is apparent.
Animations of some of his paintings appear regularly throughout the video, each one ending with the actual painting and title. Some are dark, some are funny, and some are darkly funny in their messages. The animations were excellent, and they highlighted the points of the pieces well.
Then the movie changed. A plot line was introduced, or rather several. One was that Jonathan wanted to get his work in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Then, one that one of his paintings was stolen from the gallery, which made him lose his “funny” and go in search of it with the help of lots of cameos by huge name stars. Robin Williams, Howie Mandel, Rob Reiner, Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman, several Arquettes, Tim Conway, and a myriad of others join in.
In the quest to get his work in the museum, producer Jim Pasternak seeks the opinion of art critic Nicholas DeBoor (Dominic Keating). Keating plays the role very convincingly. They then meet with the museum curator, Stacy Kaufman (Nikita Ager) and attempt to woo her into displaying Jonathan’s art.
Without going any further into the story, though the premise was cute and the movie had a happy ending, but there was so much that was a missed opportunity here.
This could have been a phenomenal documentary on Jonathan Winters, his iconic status, comedic history and influence, and his art. Every single A-List comedian who appeared in the film looked at Jonathan with complete admiration. There are very few living legends today, and he is one of them. In the footage of him and Robin Williams, the chemistry and energy between them is just unbelievable. Why they didn’t do more work together after Mork and Mindy is a shame. Jonathan being himself either by himself or interacting with everyone else showed that he capable of pulling comedy out of thin air.
On the technical side, the audio in some parts, particularily the restaurant scenes, was difficult to hear, and the video recording itself was also prosumer at best.
Where the filmmakers truly succeeded was in bringing Jonathan to the screen.

As an education to viewers on Jonathan Winters, his past, and his art work, there is some great material within this movie. Other than that, it seems a missed opportunity to pay homage to a living legend.

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originally posted: 03/20/07 00:12:18
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User Comments

4/07/08 Tamara L Gilman Outstanding and Brilliant! 5 stars
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Directed by
  Jim Pasternak

Written by

  Jonathan Winters
  Robin Williams
  Howie Mandel
  Nora Dunn
  Sarah Silverman

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