In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH.In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH.In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH.
It's pointless to compare "Casino Royale" to any of the other "straight" Bond films. There is no "plot" worthy of the name. The five disparate directors saw to that, to the extent that the writers didn't. It's a succession of gags, puns, and visual effects taking place in spectacularly designed settings, spoofs of German expressionism, psychedelic imagery, and all that. Some of the gags miss the mark. A British soldier who has been practicing karate chops on wooden boards comes to a stiff attention when his superior approaches and snaps a quivering Brit-style salute, knocking himself out with his own hand. Ha ha.
Such silliness abounds and at times the movie drags a bit, but there is always another joke around the corner. Orson Welles, with his fat cigar at the card table, performing magic tricks with flags and scarves amid flashing lights while everyone whistles and applauds. Peter Sellers trying on different costumes for Ursula Andress, including one of a gruff old general, "There's nothing wrong with the British Ahmy -- that a damned good swim won't cure."
You really can't look for logic in all of this. Listen to the score and watch the performers squeeze the most possible laughs out of their situations. Too bad the movie loses steam at the end so that what should be a climactic pulling together of all the accumulated lines of narrative and jokes is, instead, just plain silly -- clapping seals, parachuting Indians. Ridiculous, but not funny. Writers who have trouble ending absurd movies like this seem to think that a few minutes of chaotic slapstick will serve. "What's New, Pussycat" had the same problem, with people running frantically from room to room in a hotel, a Feydeau farce without laughs. "Sex and the Single Girl" thrust everybody into vehicles and sent them racing down a California freeway with nothing to say. Just about all of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" was an attempt to substitute destruction and speed for wit.
I saw this movie when it was released and laughed from beginning to end. I don't find it quite so funny now, (I don't find ANYTHING quite so funny anymore) but I watch it when I can. It's an opportunity to live in the unfolding moment.
- Feb 25, 2002