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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Retro Review: Protocol (1984)

Cast: Goldie Hawn, Chris Sarandon, Richard Romanus, Gail Strickland, Cliff  DeYoung
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $26 million 

Plot: A Washington waitress saves the Emir of Ohtar's life, launching her diplomatic career and a scandal

'Earnest & Competent, Yet Still Underdeveloped As A Comedy'

Directed by Herbert Ross who also gave us Footloose in the same year, as well as Steel Magnolias in 1989, Protocol stars Goldie Hawn who was also the executive producer, as Sunny: a sweet, down-to-earth cocktail waitress who lands a top job at Washington, when she finds herself involved in an arms deal with an Arab country. 

The film treads on similar-ish territory as Ishtar as the fish out of water trope is played with Sunny's Ditzy-yet-good natured character being taken for granted by the US protocol department, despite the fact she is completely oblivious to it all. Goldie Hawn is her usual perky, adorable and sweet self, which is perfectly fine, yet unfortunately, the nature of the material doesn't give her much to work with but for her character to stumble and bumble her way almost like a dumb, blonde stereotype. Hawn was at her best in Overboard, Death Becomes Her and Wildcats where her characters have a bit more depth and a few more layers, so that it could showcase more of her acting range, but here she has no such luck and as of that, Protocol is such a waste and that a character in Sunny should have been better developed by the creators. In addition, the script is too smart and at times, overly serious for its own good, which could have been offset by some wacky comedy and farce. 

Chris Sarandon is like an older Mark Ruffalo and he has okay camaraderie with Hawn as the nerdy looking Middle Eastern desk chief from the US state department, yet the rest of the cast give cardboard performances to back up the cardboard feel of the script.

Where Protocol falters is as a comedy, and an espionage comedy, the jokes and verbal humour are few and far between and in its place are situations and scenarios that don't work quite as well when the comedy fails to make an impact. The film never manages to go far and beyond that after an ambitious start, it then descends into almost blandness along with weak humour. That competent and earnest feel worked a treat for Footloose and Steel Magnolias, which were dramas, but Protocol is a comedy, and really, competent and earnest just isn't good enough for a movie of this type and with the premise that it has. 

Protocol doesn't 'pop' and its tone is not consistent and a bit over the place, but also, ideally, it should have worked as a wacky comedy, instead. 

Final Verdict:

Whereas Wildcats took Goldie Hawn out of her element and presented a much tougher exterior that she exuded in her performance as the hard-as-nails football coach, Protocol is a coarsely lacklustre comedy where, yet again, she plays a dumb blonde. The humour failed to hit the mark and this mixture of Ishtar's fish out of water theme with that political espionage plot doesn't reap rewards. Herbert Ross worked wonders with Footloose and Steel Magnolias, but, and despite Hawn's effortless charm and perkiness, he hit a brick wall with this early '80s offering. 

Sadly, Protocol tries to be a Goldie Hawn vehicle, rather than a comedic one and even with that, Hawn is saddled with such a character that plays on stereotypes, rather than a character that is memorable and great as she tries to come across and is well-meaning at the same time. 

Add to it a forgettable supporting cast and what you have is an interesting premise that as far as a comedy film goes, is very underdeveloped. 


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