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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Retro Movie Review: Cadillac Man (1990) #RobinWilliams

Cadillac Man
Cast: Robin Williams, Tim Robbins, Pamela Reed, Annabella Sciorra, Fran Drescher, Lauren Tom 
Genre: Comedy 
Estimated Lifetime Gross: over $27 million

Trivia: Al Pacino was originally first choice for Joey. When he passed, Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito were considered before Robin was cast

Plot: Car dealer Joey O'Brien is spread as thin financially as he is in his love life. He's dating more women than he can remember, & the locals he borrowed money from want it back. In a last-ditch effort to get out of debt, Joey struggles to sell a dozen cars in 2 days - a task that becomes difficult when the husband of Joey's secretary barges into the dealership with a semi-automatic weapon & takes everyone hostage  

'What Should Have Been A Zany Comedy Proves To Be A Fruitless Film That Is Difficult To Muster Throughout' 

Joey O'Brien is a used car salesman from Queens, New York who has a penchant for well, flashy cars and women. With his job title being a used car salesman, the term 'used' couldn't be more fitting for a guy who goes behind his wife's back and has an affair, well, make that 2 affairs with 2 different women. One of whom is married to a guy, Larry played by Tim Robbins who finds out where Joey works and goes after him with a shotgun and takes Joey, his other girlfriend and his customers hostage. To make matters even worse, Joey has to sell at least 15 cars in 2 days - or else he'd be out of a job. 

The idea is good, the premise is interesting, but the execution was practically a flawed one. It just didn't work and because of that, Cadillac Man, despite Robin Williams and being the comedic driving force that he is, isn't really that funny and amusing as a comedy film. The sheer nature of the script doesn't allow him to do what he usually does best in comedy. That, & Joey O'Brien is a character who is really difficult to take a liking to. He cheats on his wife, sleeps around, as well as try and rip people off and has a habit of talking the talk but not being able to walk the walk at the same time. 

Strangely enough, as I stumbled across the acting credits, I noticed an actress with the same first name as myself who had a role in this movie, which I thought was fascinating. 

It's not often I agree with the critics, and usually, with Robin Williams's movies, I usually don't; as I mentioned in one of my other posts related to him, there are movies of his that critics can't stand and yet I love and vice-versa. This one, Cadillac Man, however, is a film I am somewhat in unison with. 

He has starred in a couple of unfunny comedies (The Best of Times, Club Paradise), some embarrassments & clunkers (Bicentennial Man, Old Dogs which I loathed), an R-rated adult offering that was panned to death (Death to Smoochy), scored three big hits in Good Morning, Vietnam, The Birdcage and Mrs Doubtfire, as well as comedy movies that were trashed by critics and of which I've very much enjoyed (The Survivors and Fathers' Day). But this film, Cadillac Man, is a movie that ought to have been a whole lot better. And funnier. 

The film lacks the improvisational & slapstick comedy that was in Mrs Doubtfire and Fathers' Day; thus, it doesn't display Robin Williams's full comedic range and wit. In The Birdcage, Armand was doing the 'Vogue' and trying to dance, in Mrs Doubtfire, Daniel as Mrs Doubtfire throws an orange at Stu's head, in Fathers' Day, Dale has hot coffee poured on his private parts: but here, Cadillac Man doesn't have one funny, laugh out loud scene on the same lines like that, no zany stupidity and silliness one would come to expect from Robin Williams. 

The sex scene where Joey is making out with Fran Drescher's character under the covers didn't really add anything to further the plot; instead, the film relies on some less amusing ad-libs and lines of Robin's, courtesy of the writer. The humour is black comedy focused and is very much centred around Robin's character saying things that are supposed to come across as being amusing, but of which, flat- out, aren't. As opposed to utilising physical comedy and slapstick, which is and was one of Robin's clear and ultimate strengths, alongside the improvisational comedy. It has scenes of characters screaming at the top of their lungs in an attempt to pass off as comedy, which ultimately fails. At times it becomes so over the top it becomes off-putting. The funeral scene during the opening of the movie was supposed to be funny, but I didn't laugh once. It didn't elicit laughs from me. & the fart gag in the elevator was completely unfunny.

All the main characters, but for say, 1 or 2 of the car salesmen and the waitress in this film were pretty much unsympathetic, and yes Joey was and is an utter sleazeball: a word I don't normally use when describing Robin Williams's many other likeable and less pretentious characters. Though he has played a multitude of characters with varying personalities, appearances, circumstances, much like with Randolph Smiley in Death to Smoochy, I can't really envisage Robin Williams as a slimeball, sleazy type of guy. Joey is a womaniser,  sleazeball and a mediocre character to boot as well. Robin is much more effective playing protagonist roles, especially likeable comedy protagonist roles that showcase his enormous talents.  

Although in actor Tim Robbins, I kind of sided with him slightly and I felt his anger when Larry confronted Joey about him sleeping with his wife. His performance was all right, though with Robin Williams, as off-the-wall and manic as he went all out in this film, he came off as looking too frenzied and panicky. Now I get what the director was trying to do with Robin, insofar as the humour is concerned: he wanted to make his character go all nuts (though with Tim Robbins, he did go nuts here), practically shouting, screaming, losing his will to live, in his efforts to make the film funny. When really all it did was make Joey get even more carried away and act more of a maniac and be just as loathe-able. 

The film only gets going once Larry enters the hostage-taking scene, but even after that and Joey's frustration and mania, it's still somewhat boring and lacklustre with a bland execution. Too much talking, with most of it lacking in humour & not enough out-of-your-chair moments. Cadillac Man could have been a great parody for hostage taking movies. The performances are okay but the dialogue and lines are just not amusing enough. The storylines with the wives got too peddling and confusing, the fact that we weren't given more details into each one meant that we were left scratching our heads, wondering where this movie was eventually heading. Though one bright spark was the Chinese waitress who did elicit some laughs with her funny accent and lines. 

If you want to see a Robin Williams comedy film full of laughs and easily accessible humour, then Cadillac Man isn't it; rather your best bet for that is Mrs Doubtfire, The Birdcage and Fathers' Day. Cadillac Man is certainly a missed opportunity and one that could've easily taken advantage of - had the humour been much funnier and consistent, & not just by the virtue of one-line gags and jokes. 

Instead, it is just so hateful with mean-spirited humour and not one single character I could thoroughly and sincerely root for and is also a comedy blip on Robin Williams's filmography, joining the likes of other stinkers in Old Dogs, The Best of Times, Club Paradise, The Big Wedding, RV & Death To Smoochy.


Pros +

- Tim Robbins

- Good idea, interesting premise 

- Performances were pretty good 

- The Chinese waitress 


- Painfully and consistently unfunny throughout, with not one single laugh out loud moment 

- For a comedy, it is too self-reliant on the dialogue 

- Terribly written characters 

- Dialogue and writing lacking in humour and wit 

- Main storylines were too complicated and confusing 

- Lacks in physical comedy and improvisational comedy, which would have spurred the film onwards 

Final Verdict:

As a film, Cadillac Man doesn't generate a great deal. For a so-called comedy movie, though it plays on dark humour, it's not really executed well enough, nor as thoroughly entertaining when it comes to laughs and that most of the gags and dialogue are in turn downright unfunny.

But therein lies the problem with this film: the magic word is 'unfunny' and sadly, Cadillac Man pretty much falls into this category. It flopped on general release back in 1990 - and unsurprisingly faded disappeared into obscurity. Had this film been released today, it still wouldn't have worked. Yet the key ingredient into making it work would have been to make it zanier when it came to the humour, having wittier dialogue, as well as the comedy by having 1 or 2 laugh out loud scenes & better- written characters. It would have done wonders as well. 

Robin Williams's charm and comedic talents were sadly and truly wasted, or be it missed in this boring and flat feature. The director and/or writer, as well as Robin himself, had to work hard to make this film resonate with the audience, but this is to no avail. 

It is also another clunker from Robin's filmography, which isn't as smart and nowhere as charming as it tries to be. 

This is a difficult film to muster, let alone a fruitless and confusing mess that is also not very amusing; suffice to say, I cannot really recommend Cadillac Man unless you are really into cars and into this type of dark humour. 


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