For Reel

Critic’s Choice (1963)
June 30, 2016, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Don Weis
2 Stars
Critic's ChoiceDuring its run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in the early 1960s, Critic’s Choice (written by Ira Levin) was directed by Otto Preminger, who seems the perfect choice to bring to life the sexual frustrations that are the driving force of the narrative. Unfortunately, the filmed version isn’t quite so lucky—while the jokes veer more risqué than one might expect of a Bob Hope and Lucille Ball vehicle, director Don Weiss seems to be more interested in the repeated joke of Hope’s back giving out. Hope plays a theater critic who must write a review for his wife’s first play, ultimately pitting his marriage against his job. The running joke is that Hope is always begging for sex, and that he is unable to enjoy simple pleasures probably has much to do with his dissatisfaction in the bedroom (certainly meant to play as a jab against critics at large). Naturally, he doesn’t find himself excited by his wife’s stage play, nor by the young stud director (Rip Torn) who has taken an interest in her. Hope often played put-upon men, whose sly comments often involved jokes about the circumstances that are being thrust upon him. In Critic’s Choice, everything charming about the persona is gone because he is the one instigating—he’s a reactionary performer by nature, and his shortcomings in a more active role are especially prominent when playing against a hugely understated (and almost decidedly non-comic) Ball. Furthermore, although good friends in real life, the pair don’t share any sexual tension on screen, which becomes especially problematic when Torn, enjoyable but equally flaccid in his scenes with Ball, is wrought to be a threat to the marriage. The film is miscast in almost every way, and falls flat in its unwillingness to commit to being the sex farce the material is clearly begging it to be.

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