just mercy (destin daniel cretton, 2019)
geezer cinema: pain and glory (pedro almodóvar, 2019)

road to bali (hal walker, 1952)

Another movie for "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." Week 19 is called "Comedy Duos Week":

Sometimes, when the chemistry works, it just works. Which is why some comedic film duos appeared in multiple films, because people just loved seeing the two work off each other. So, for this week, we are going to take a look at the films of comedic duos. To be a little more specific, the duo whose film(s) you choose must have had at LEAST 3 outings together in starring roles, solidifying their identity as a "duo". So, where Amy Poehler and Tina Fey may not make the cut as they only have two outings and only bit parts in Mean Girls, an unlikely duo like Kid 'n Play DO make the cut, as they were in three of the House Party films. Strange, I know, but them's the rules.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film starring a comedy duo with three or more outings together. I've created a list that offers a few examples to choose from.

I had planned to watch a Jay and Silent Bob movie, but I didn't really want to, so at the last minute I substituted this "Road" movie that I hadn't seen before.

I wrote, of Road to Morocco:

The movies were ... how about “insouciant”? They were nonsensical, offering parodies of popular genres of the day. There were lots of ad-libs, with Hope often talking directly to the audience. As in Hope’s comedy act, there were plenty of topical references, one reason the films don’t hold up as well as some ... there was no attempt to be timeless. I guess the closest thing in more recent years would be the Naked Gun movies with Leslie Nielsen.

Road to Bali comes near the end of the series ... there was only one more, a decade later, and it's barely worth remembering. It's the only one in color. It's not the best, or my favorite, but the silliness factor is good. I'm not going to give away the cameos ... it's enough to know that they are there ... but among the goofy stuff, you've got a dangerous giant squid, a recurring snake charmer bit, Bing and Dorothy and Hope singing, Hope breaking the fourth wall (just before one Crosby song, he looks at the camera and declares, "He's gonna sing, folks. Now's the time to go out and get the popcorn"). Hope and Crosby play patti cake. The plot is unimportant ... when I mentioned to my wife I'd watched it, she asked with a smile what the plot was. I told her Hope and Crosby were on the lam, and they both fell for Lamour. "I figured", she said, since that was always the plot. Hope and Crosby ad-lib, Lamour patiently puts up with it. Many, perhaps most, of the topical material is lost on today's audiences (unless you are up to date on who was the head of the Chicago Musician's Union at the time, or which baseball teams Hope and Crosby owned in real life, or which of the duo had won an Oscar and which hadn't). But the insouciance I referred to earlier remains. The racism is pretty casual ... the Indonesian setting is clearly placed in the Paramount backlot, and the "natives" are led by Leon Askin, who plays the king as if he is auditioning for his famous part as General Burkhalter in Hogan's Heroes. There is a discussion of whether the natives are head hunters, cannibals, or both. It's neither better nor worse than other movies of its time.

There is one scenario full of subtext. Both Hope and Crosby (I could use the character names, but why bother) think they are marrying Lamour. They wake up in the morning to realize they were going to marry each other. King Leon Askin finds this hilarious ... "two grooms, no bride! Hahahahahaha!"

It interests me that I replaced a more modern comedy with this relic from my childhood. I am so predictable in my lack of feel for comedies today, but Road to Bali isn't all that different from an Adam Sandler picture. It would seem that nostalgia affects my response to comedies.

OK, here's one cameo spoiler, as well as a spoiler for the end of the movie, so don't watch if that bothers you. Trivia: the star who turns up here is wearing their costume from a different picture they made with Hope:


Charlie Bertsch

I'm glad I stopped by. My dad adores Road movies. I recently watched Road to Morocco and Road to Utopia with him via the TCM app. Because I had been "rereading" -- listening to the audiobook -- of Edward Said's Orientalism, the former interested me in particular. The racism is casual. And the stereotyping. But part of me feels that the obvious lack of accuracy, at a time when the United States had been thrust into a global war and was suddenly being expected to be almost everywhere at once, is meaningful in ways that the filmmakers did not intend. If the classic mode of Orientalism that Said writes about was centered on expertise, knowledge that is transmuted into power, then the Hope-Crosby sort is centered on a lack of interest in acquiring expertise, such that the absence of knowledge is transmuted into a different kind of power.

Steven Rubio

That's good, Charlie, no surprise there. The kind of cultural racism of movies at the time might be slightly different in the Road movies, which were closer to surreal than to real. The cumulative effect of Other cultures in American movies was sneakily overwhelming, but I'd be surprised if anyone thought the islanders in Road to Bali were "real" ... nothing in the movie is "real". More dangerous were movies that presented Otherness as if they were depicting something real.

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