by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Hot off of comedy hits like Caddyshack, in 1980, Chevy Chase could do no wrong. And then 1981 happened. Under the Rainbow, at the time, was widely regarded as a huge bomb and, until Ishtar, was Hollywood’s go-to joke for overblown comedies. More than 30 years later, I just have one question to ask: Why? Under the Rainbow is actually a very solid, very funny, very clever comedy that, if anything, was a little too ahead of its time. It’s a kitchen-sink riff on the screwball comedy, with Chase playing a G-Man assigned to protect a traveling dignitary while constantly crossing paths with Carrie Fisher (the it-girl of the time, thanks to Star Wars, of course), who is an MGM casting agent in charge of rounding up a couple hundred drunken, horny little people who are to play Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. There are also Nazis, assassination attempts, swordplay and a madcap studio dash that rivals that of Blazing Saddles. A sorely overlooked gem, Under the Rainbow is a yellow brick road to hilarity.
Looking back at The Blues Brothers, it’s kind of funny how surreal that movie really is. But, then again, whenever Belushi and Aykroyd got together, be it on film or SNL, it always presented a decidedly skewed and dark comedic view of modern life. They reached their apex of these collaborations with 1981’s Neighbors, a befuddling, bizarre look at suburbia. Belushi is Earl, a haggard businessman whose life is the epitome of routine — and, to be fair, he likes it that way, much to his long-suffering wife’s chagrin. His whole world is turned upside-down, however, when a pair of swingers (Dan Aykroyd and Cathy Moriarty) move in next-door and wreak an insane amount of havoc. Who these people are, why these people are there, and if they are even real is never explained, as we are forced to go on this ride with Earl, experiencing all of his repressed frustrations exploding as he is taken advantage of, made fun of, and ultimately destroyed in order to ambiguously rebuild him as a new man. It makes little to no sense, but to see these two together on screen for a final time is a real treat, making one wonder what else they could have accomplished if Belushi had lived. Could it have been even weirder than Neighbors?
Every movie should have a talking horse. Every. Movie. Not only do they make films better, they just seem to make life better. Unfortunately, after reaching its apex with the television series Mr. Ed, Hollywood began to quit listening to the public, and an invisible moratorium was placed on loquacious equines. That changed, thankfully, in 1988 when Bobcat Goldthwait bucked the system and starred in Hot to Trot, a hilarious comedy about a ne’er-do-well who inherits not only half of his mother’s stockbroking firm, but also a horse named Don. But Don is no ordinary horse — he’s a wisecracking stock market wizard who loves to party and is even voiced by John Candy. As Bobcat and Don fight to save their firm from the clutches of Dabney Coleman as the buck-toothed, scheming, philandering step-dad, the boys throw parties where farm animals are invited, find romance with Virginia Madsen, sing “Tutti-Frutti” in a convertible, and even win the big horse race. Oh God, do I love this movie.