Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hanky Crappy: "Hanky Panky" (1982)



The funniest thing about this abysmal 1982 release is a joke that the film makers did not even realize they made. Gene Wilder plays Michael Jordan...from Chicago.

No, he's not a basketball player, but an architect visiting New York City, when he tries to pick up cute Sarah (Kathleen Quinlan). He mails a package for her, she rebuffs him (and not in the good way), and he will probably never see her again, until a couple of thugs led by Ransom (Richard Widmark) give Jordan a truth serum and find out where the package is heading. Jordan tries to find Sarah again, but she is killed by Ransom, and Jordan is the prime suspect. Soon, he is on the run, dragging along Kate (Gilda Radner), who is helping him in order to serve her own motives. The rest of the picture plays like an Alfred Hitchcock film on a bad week. There are stolen military weapon computer files, assorted murders, and Jordan and Kate escape it all, double crossing and getting double crossed.

While this is supposed to be a comedy, sometimes the violence is a little jarring. Widmark and Quinlan have a knockdown drag out fist fight, without obvious stunt people. The film breathlessly begins, without any kind of set-up. Within the first couple of seconds, Jordan is in a cab, hitting on Sarah. Who is this guy? What's with the package? Director Poitier doesn't give us one speck of background, so we do not care about these characters from the get-go.

I am also curious why Sidney Poitier of all people chose this to direct. None of the laughs work, even when the cast members laugh and think it's funny. One long embarrassing scene has Jordan on a bus wearing a magician's coat, and of course, gag flowers and long ropes of handkerchiefs get pulled from hidden compartments and pockets. The rest of the bus was laughing...you won't.

Wilder does nothing more than run around screaming his lines at the top of his lungs. Radner is too low key, not getting one chuckle. Anyone could have played this part, it was a waste of her massive talent. Why did Poitier direct this, well, ask Widmark why he is in this? Again, anyone could play his part, he shows up and menaces people, then disappears.

"Hanky Panky" is an unmitigated disaster, with a story line that has been done a thousand times before. Go find one of those efforts, instead. (*) out of five stars. Watch this movie now!: Hanky Panky