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Sunday, 11 September 2016

Retro Review: Burglar (1987)

Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Bobcat Goldthwait, G.W. Bailey, John Goodman, Lesley Ann Warren
Genre: Comedy
Studio: Warner Bros.

Plot: Bookstore owner and burglar Bernie (Whoopi Goldberg) is being blackmailed by corrupt cop Ray (G.W Bailey), forcing her into her most ambitious job yet: a jewellery store heist she's woefully under prepared for. Things head south quickly when a murder occurs and Bernie is framed for the death. Now Bernie and her manic sidekick, Carl (Bob Gold Goldthwait) have to clear Bernie's name, so she can get back to her normal routine of selling books and stealing.

'A Lamentable & Limp Comedy Effort With A Miscasted Whoopi & Poor Script'

Reformed Bernie, a cat burglar out on parole also doubles up as a bookstore owner, who is forced to do one more job by a bent cop, and it all goes downhill from there onwards when a dentist's ex-husband is murdered - after she herself hires Bernie to steal jewellery that was taken by him in a divorce. This movie, along with Jumpin' Jack Flash, had all but blew up Whoopi in the big time, in terms of her popularity & made her a household name. 

The film was adapted from the 1978 novel, The Burglar in the Closet by Lawrence Block. In the Novel, the main character Bernie is a White male and was the first R-rated live- action movie by Canadian animation company, Nelvana, known for Care Bears

Interestingly also, Bruce Willis was supposed to be the titular character with Whoopi Goldberg as the character's neighbour. It was only when Willis dropped out that Goldberg took over as the lead. G.W bailey as Captain Harris in the Police Academy movies is in this as well. Willis may thank his lucky stars that he avoided this film, but having said that, his casting might have made a huge difference.

Bobcat Goldwait is also in this film who acts as the comedic relief, and whilst sometimes it's difficult to make out what he is saying, there is a very funny presence about him - in a weirdo-ish kind of sense. He is an actor who divides a lot of people: you either find his zaniness amusing or just off-putting and annoying, because whenever he says something, it's like he is shouting a lot and at times it is inaudible. That, and that it comes across as being creepy too. 

This is not Whoopi Goldberg's best movie (she was terrific in The Color Purple, good in Jumpin' Jack Flash) by any means, and she certainly went on to attain better roles, well kind of in Ghost and Sister Act later on, but it does have its moments. She goes into wacky, crazy improv mode & does several character riffs a few times in this movie, such as when she is in some guy's apartment and he has a meat cleaver, and some of it was amusing. Sort of. There is no doubt she is a great comedic actress, though sometimes, I just wished she and Billy Crystal, who was great in When Harry Met Sally and Running Scarred would have picked better projects during their heydays, in the midst of the 1980s and 1990s. 

Comedy is definitely Whoopi's fore-ray - yet this role as Bernie didn't seem to be the right fit for her. I was also confused as to why she was made to wear blue contacts throughout this film; it didn't make her eyes look good at all.  

Burglar, like all other comedy movies in general doesn't try to be too deep with the story, but as I sat down to watch this film, I was expecting this to be an out-and- out comedy. And neither did I think the director explain things well. Some parts of the movie did drag and as it did, I lost all interest. The humour is very much derived from Whoopi's improv antics to Bobcat's incessant shouting and the script is not all that interesting. But for it being billed as an action comedy and despite Whoopi being the star attraction, as much as she tried to hold this film together, the script is so limp and lacking it doesn't even attempt to touch upon her character and make her personality interesting. As a result, Whoopi has no opportunities in this movie to establish any kind of identity whatsoever. 

It is also not very suspenseful, even when it attempts to do so and in all, the whole thing feels, as well as seems to be rather forgettable and dire.  

Final Verdict: 

If a movie is billed as a comedy, the jokes, gags, physical comedy scenes needs to be funny to the point that the humour is accessible and the audience is able to get the joke. But this movie doesn't do it, or when it tries to, it fails. But for the slight giggles here and there, this so-called comedy just didn't do the trick. 

And this is indeed a great shame, given how the opening scene of Burglar was good; I was hoping that that scene would lead to the movie getting more and more interesting, as it went on. Yet sadly, that didn't happen. 

Burglar is a lamentable affair directed by Police Academy director, Hugh Wilson - hence the appearances of Bobcat and G.W Bailey from the same movie - and yet even Hugh can't muster enough magic to make this attempt memorable and more amusing than it is. Especially for Whoopi Goldberg. This is a waste of her talents, and it wasn't surprising to read how much she dislikes this movie.


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