Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Page Two

By Louis Black

AUGUST 11, 1997:  It is Saturday afternoon and the recently turned seven-year-old and I are sitting in the theatre watching Good Burger. Marjorie Baumgarten had evoked Abbott & Costello and Martin & Lewis in her review of this movie, so I knew it was my turf. When we were teenagers, film critic Leonard Maltin and I would go to kiddie matinees to see Jerry Lewis movies. Average age of the screaming audience members there more to eat candy and run around than watch the screen: 8; Our age: 14, and our sole purpose was to experience another hysterical masterpiece by the great Jerry Lewis. There were always cartoons as well, though often in wretched shape (even at this young age, Maltin was beginning to accumulate a substantial home library of movies, including many cartoons). Our Saturday afternoon movie-going was a holy ritual, the best of those wide-open suburban summers. Coming out of a theatre with daylight left, a chance to relish the movie, and still cram something else into the day.

Before the ritual swim, even, the seven-year-old and I head to Good Burger. The Austin summers aren't as innocent as those days in Jersey but movies still fit in well. Marge is right. Nickelodeon's Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson are funny and creative in the classic comedy pair sense, given the underlying stupidity of the team (which is, of course, its central conceit and basic liability), they are very good. Stupid can be very funny but too stupid can wear thin pretty quickly, thus good stupid must walk a fine line. Driven by that team, this was definitely Abbott & Costello country and here, that's a compliment.

It is Saturday afternoon, we are at the movies, and our heroes are unjustly locked up in a mental asylum. They turn the radio dial, switching the music from deadening elevator muzak to driving funk, George Clinton's "Knee Deep" with the master himself as one of the patients. As the funk plays, suddenly the patients, exaggerated caricatures all, start dancing. It is the sweetest moment of movie silliness, the institutionalized insane finding the beat and hitting the groove.

I can't imagine that this scene won't be offensive to a wide range of tastes and completely uninteresting to many more. In fact, knowing about it might overwhelm it, any expectation being too much for this slim scene to carry. But here in the middle of this film is this unexpected scene, a bit of musical magic as the dancing patients, accompanied by Clinton, Kel and Kevin, scheme to get away.

Back then, my feet used to get stuck to the floor of the theatre in Hackensack, N.J., with screaming kids all around me, as Maltin and I leaned forward to make sure we got all the dialogue from Jerry Lewis' films and then roared back in laughter at the high points. Years later, my feet feel like they are sticking to the floor, even though it is clean, and in a moment none-too-profound, I have felt the magic of the movies and I'm ready to dance.




Page Back Current Issue Next Issue Page Forward

Film & TV: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Austin Chronicle . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch