17 January 2006 | bkoganbing
Pepe Should Be Reassessed
Now any film with as many stars as they gathered together for bit parts as Pepe will automatically get me watching it in any event. There's no way I'd give this a bad review.
But in terms of the film itself, it might well have been oversold back then. Cantinflas got rave notices for his performance as Passepartout in Around the World in 80 Days, but failed to win audiences in the English speaking world. So this time Cantinflas played the title role and Columbia Pictures gathered together just about every star who had a free minute or so to appear in this. When you consider that Around the World in 80 Days was also such an all star extravaganza, did any other performer in history ever command such support?
Not that he didn't deserve it. In Latin America, especially in his native Mexico, Cantinflas was a national icon. I think that it was no accident that all these stars wanted to appear with him, it certainly would boost their market value in the Latin American area to be identified with him.
Seeing this film again 46 years after it first came out and I did see it in the theater back in the day, I was struck with how similar the Pepe character was to Forrest Gump. Tom Hanks who got an Oscar for his performance of someone as guileless as Pepe also during that film ran into as many famous folks as Pepe managed to.
Columbia cheated a little bit by going to Las Vegas for part of the story. This was the height of the Rat Pack era and a whole lot of the cast from Ocean's 11 took time from filming that to do some ring-a-ding walk-ons here.
There are some nice musical numbers. Shirley Jones is in good voice singing the title song. A real treat is Cantinflas, Dan Dailey, and Maurice Chevalier doing a reprise of Mimi. My favorite though is a star that appears only by voice, but Judy Garland's The Faraway Part of Town which is heard over a radio should rank as one of the best songs she ever sang.
Seen almost a half a century later, I'd say Pepe was undeservedly panned by the critics back then and is worth looking at whenever it gets broadcast.