Road to Singapore

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 03/10/05 23:08:37

"All Buddy movies should start off on this road."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Laurel and Hardy do not count as a 'buddy' duo. They were pioneers of slapstick, with little of the bickering and character interplay that is a requisite of budy movies. Neither were Abbott and Costello, as they relied more on the straight man/funny man routine. No, the true founders of the buddy movie are Bob Hope and Bing Crosby with their 'Road to...' series, where Singapore was just their first stop.

Hope is Ace and Crosby is Josh, two sailors who on a spot of shoreleave run into women trouble. Ace has been romancing and then ditching the wrong type of girl and her father wants a marriage quick sharp, whilst Josh is being harassed into settling down with his long-term fiance. Instead of settling down however, they hotfoot it to Singapore where they make a pact: no more women. Until Singapore siren Dorothy Lamour crosses their path, who is under the harsh control of a young Anthony Quinn.

Before I start the review however I want to ask: just what kind of name is Bing? How did they decide that at the birth? "Bang?" "No"; "Ting?" "No", "Hang?" "No", "Bing?" "Yes, that's it!".

Anyway, buddy movies obviously stand and die by the chemistry between their stars, and the 'Road' series luckily has sparkling chemistry to spare between the duo. They play off each other brilliantly, with Crosby's laid back, 'aw shucks' persona complementing Hope's acerbic, manic quality to great effect. They have an easy, relaxed relationship around each other with both showing a natural comic and musical flair.

It makes it funnier however, to see just how homo-erotic it is looking back. They have pet-names for each other, are constantly smiling back and forth, argue over the fact that they're getting attracted to a woman and even share a bed (just watch how tenderly Crosby pulls Hope back into bed and away from the tempting Lamour). It isn't exactly 'Top Gun' or 'Tango and Cash' but there's a definite element to it. They're sailors for Gods sake!

But 'The Road to Singapore' is more than funny on its own terms. The humour ranges from quick-fire banter to great set-ups like Hope trying to sell bottled soap and water to the natives and Crosby, Hope and Lamour sneaking into a tribal feast/ marriage ceremony.

Hope is clearly a born star delivering his putdown's with relish (especially an early jab at the Republican's - the first overtly political satire?) while it's easy to forget that Crosby was as much a movie star as a music star. It's amusing in more than one way to see the crooner of 'White Christmas' get into several brawls here. Lamour also holds her own well, with feisty and funny performance.

Props are also due to director Victor Schertzinger, who manages to bottle up the charisma of his two stars without indulging it or stifling it and packaging it as the fun and fizzy entertainment that Hollywood did so well in the 30's and 40's. This is a case of a musical/comedy that has great jokes and great songs.

There were better films to come in the 'Road' series, but 'The Road to Singapore' is a lively and entertaining start. Altogether now: "Patty cake, patty cake, baker's man..."

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