24 September 2008 | lzf0
Almost, but not quite
"Sound Off" was Richard Quine's third major feature effort and his first encounter as a director with Mickey Rooney. It was also his first writing partnership with Blake Edwards. What sounded like a sure fire idea, cocky entertainer Rooney being drafted, should have been uproariously funny. It's been done before by most of the classic film comedians, and Rooney's over the top activities are well suited to this premise. When Rooney is permitted to go wild and do his stuff, like in the non-Hardy pictures with Judy Garland, the MGM comedy "A Slight Case of Larceny", and even the cheap, but brilliant "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini", he is a top comic, deserving far more praise. However, Quine seems to restrain him here. In scenes where his superiors should have overstated their impatience with him, they treat him with some respect. These scenes are realistic and warm instead of being over exaggerated for comic effect. Quine is a very mannered director and his quirkiness makes films like "Operation Mad Ball" and "Bell, Book and Candle" special and funnier. That quirkiness seems to be missing from "Sound Off". It is there in his earlier Columbia short comedies, and his style, very much at odds with Jules White's mode of operation, makes these little comedies misfires. "Sound Off" is just a little too bland in style and performance. However, there is a good amount slapstick, which Rooney excels in, and it helps. Writer Blake Edwards has yet to find his unique comedy style, and this is to the advantage of the film at hand. All the actors seem to be a little too restrained. Even Rooney, a performer known for "chewing up the scenery" keeps it low key. This is unfortunate, since Rooney is special and unique when he can go crazy. The musical numbers are an added bonus to this film and Rooney performs them with confidence and style. The next Quine-Edwards-Rooney Columbia service comedy, "All Ashore", is superior to "Sound Off" in almost all departments. However, Rooney's personality is better served by "Sound Off".