Sunday, September 13, 2020

What’s Up, Doc? (1972)

An engaged musicologist (Ryan O’Neal), a man carrying government secrets, jewel thieves, and a crazy woman (Barbra Streisand) cross paths in a San Francisco hotel. Each has an identical overnight bag that is confused for the others. Zany antics ensue.

What’s Up, Doc? legitimately feels like a Warner Brothers cartoon but also takes inspiration from classic screwball comedies, principally Bringing Up Baby, and other classic films. O’Neal’s musicologist is Grant’s paleontologist. The film is packed with classic film references. Streisand plays As Time Goes By from Casablanca and insists on calling O'Neal's Howard ‘Steve’ as Lauren Bacall’s character does to Bogart in To Have and Have Not. The references are too numerous to list.

There’s not much else really to say of the story other than Streisand is relentless in her pursuit of Howard, Howard is helpless in everything he does, and mobsters and g-men are incompetent. Screwball to the end, which is fairly satisfying.

The absurdist nature of the comedy is somewhat off putting at first, but it grows on you. Barbra is quite charming as a crazy lady, Madeline Kahn is the perfect unlikable fiancee, and the crazy pace is kept up throughout. It's an amusing and unique comedy, if not hilarious. AMRU 3.5.

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