I've never liked Jerry Lewis, nor much of anything he's been in. I don't think he's particularly funny, and his recent insistence that women shouldn't do comedy because it "diminishes" their "qualities to the lowest common denominator" both puzzle and offend me, and not just on behalf of the all the really funny women in the world. I'm not sure it says much about him that he thinks it's okay for men to diminish themselves in that way, or that they are already so debased that it doesn't matter what they do.
Yeah, I know, he's an old man now, and I probably shouldn't say bad things about him.
If that's true, then this is my mea culpa. This evening, I happened to watch "Artists and Models", a 1955 film he made with Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, and Dorothy Malone. Ordinarily I wouldn't have watched it, but my roommate turned it on so that her 5-year-old granddaughter could watch it. But, we were eating dinner and it was either watch the movie or go eat by myself. I've been eating alone all summer while my roommate has been on vacation, so that wasn't an option that I really liked. And so I watched the movie.
It was hilarious.
No, really. It's that laugh-out-loud kind of funny that is difficult to come by, in my experience.
It still had too much of Lewis's mugging. That isn't my taste in comedy, and it doesn't look any better these days on Jim Carrey than it did when Lewis was doing it on a regular basis. And I find his "Hey, Lady!" voice, which he uses in this film, to be particularly grating. But, even with all this, I laughed out loud repeatedly during the film and recommend it just on that basis alone.
Also, any movie that can find comedy in the Cold War and the popular culture of the 1950s is my friend, and this film manages to do that. They send up the furor over what comic books were supposedly doing to the sensitive minds of children with style and bite, and they poke fun equally at the Soviets and at US overzealousness in rooting out all the Reds under all the beds. And there's a quick, blink-and-you'll-miss-it, tip of the hat to "Rear Window", one of the top grossing films of the year before "Artists and Models" was made, that is just hilarious. There is also a scene that begs the question of whether whoever invented the game "Twister" was watching it when they first thought of the idea for the game. They also manage to send up the then-fledgling space race as they laugh at both the spying of the Soviets and at the sometimes comic overzealousness of the US in guarding against that spying.
Here's the trailer for the film, courtesy of YouTube:
It really is a funny film, and you should see it. It doesn't make me like Jerry Lewis any better, to be honest, but it proves that him just being in a movie is not necessarily a reason for me to avoid it completely.