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Friday, 29 September 2017

Retro Review: Mr. Saturday Night (1992)

Mr Saturday Night
Cast: Billy Crystal, David Paymer, Julie Warner, Helen Hunt, Ron Silver
Genre: Comedy Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $13 million 

Plot: The life of Buddy Young, a comic legend, in flashbacks, but an old man looking for work in the present 

'Jaded Comedy-Drama Offering By Crystal' 

Art imitates life and vice- versa in this early Billy Crystal offering and one that he followed up with after City Slickers, which was a huge box office success; unfortunately, whereas the latter fared tremendously and was enjoyable in places, not to mention Crystal's character was likable and appealing, in stark contrast in Mr Saturday Night, Buddy is not so much likable.

Billy Crystal's directorial debut, Mr Saturday Night chronicles the life and times of a fictional character who is supposed to be a meanie, but Crystal is too much of a nice guy to portray an egotistical jerk and lacks real aggression and menace to pull it off. Buddy Young is an ageing Jewish stand-up comedian, who, after initial success, falls from grace and ultimately struggles to find work. His behaviour and personality rubs his friends & peers up the wrong way and that, in turn, has a direct effect on him.

The film has its roots in old-school vaudeville variety show-based comedy that harkens back to the 1950s-1960s.

Mr Saturday Night was well received by critics, but it failed to set the box office alight, as well as find its feet with general audiences and frankly, this is not a surprise. This is more of a dramatic film about a comedian, rather than a comedy film about a comedian and whilst I do not have an issue with this, the story itself - as well-written as it comes across-, is not very entertaining or engaging enough. That, and the comedy itself, whilst it is not intentionally coming across as a comedy, the humour itself is not great. Dubbed a vanity project, the way a lot of people will see to it is that Mr Saturday Night is a take on what could have been or is probably a parody of Billy Crystal's life as a comedian. Only it doesn't feel like or is a parody.

And Buddy isn't a completely likeable guy, either.

Despite the script harnessing Crystal's talents and giving him the opportunity to act and play the role of a comedian, the story struggles to be enticing and thus, it doesn't do enough to maintain audience interest. Like most of Crystal's movies, his performance is great to watch, but sometimes the script often lets him down and people have made it known that with his efforts, it is the case where the actors/characters in his movies act like they are telling jokes and being funny, without being funny themselves. This is a sentiment that is echoed in Forget Paris and America's Sweethearts - but at least (for me that is) with America's Sweethearts, Crystal does go to greater lengths to incorporate slapstick and light-hearted scenes that garner a smile or two.

Add to that a slow pacing with a maudlin and pedestrian story that lacks enough wow moments to make it fully enjoyable, Mr Saturday Night is a drama about comedy, but its execution left me jaded and it just wasn't watchable all the way through.

Final Verdict:

Billy Crystal did it better with America's Sweethearts and fared a tad better with Forget Paris, when it comes to written efforts and thus, Mr Saturday Night comes up short, which is also not helped by the fact that it feels all too ordinary and the story was banal.

The cinematography is great and it captures that 1950s spirit that the storyline evokes; yet aside from that, this was a bland effort and the mix of comedy and drama here is just too jittery.


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