23 May 2004 | Gavno
One of those "Guilty Pleasures" Movies
EVERY movie nut has a few in his collection that he hides from his friends... films that "aren't cool", trashy films with no redeeming social value, outrageous films with no importance whatever. Films that you secretly watch from time to time just because they're FUN!
I'll come clean here... ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, POOTIE TANG, SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT, CANDY and ROCK & ROLL HIGH SCHOOL are among MY Guilty Pleasures.
An outstanding member of my back-of-the-shelf collection is WON TON TON, THE DOG WHO SAVED Hollywood.
This one is DEFINITELY for those folks whose knowledge of American cinema goes back a LONG way... back to the Mack Sennett comedies, and to the days before Hollywood became a multibillion dollar Money Machine. It's a sort of Love Letter to the silent screen stars of the 1920's; they appear in a copious number of cameos here. If you don't know who the Ritz Brothers were, you won't get this film!
Madelein Kahn literally steals the show from a somewhat dopey German Shepard, a MAJOR achievement for ANY actor or actress! There's an old stage saying that one should NEVER work with kids or animals; they'll steal your scenes every time without even trying. Kahn MORE than held her own, even successfully stealing scenes from the pooch. Check out the scene where the roast chicken falls off of the delivery truck, and Kahn and Won Ton Ton fight over possession of it. She just DUSTED the dog, and overall HE comes off as the comedic straight man!
The only other recent actor that comes close to this level of thespian gallantry and sheer talent is Jim Bellushi in his performance in K9... he's ANOTHER screwball comedian who can pull it off successfully.
Bruce Dern's performance is somewhat wooden. Dern's persona literally radiates instability and danger... NOT good for comedy. He's gamely going through the motions here; it quickly becomes painfully apparent that Dern, as fine an actor as he is, has NO potential in comedic roles.
Art Carney does his usual masterful job of playing a curmudgeonly movie producer, constantly shooting down Dern's half baked movie ideas ("There's this little girl in Kansas, see, and a tornado takes her and her house to this magic land, somewhere over the rainbow...").
One of the unsung heros here is Ron Liebman; he shows a flair for subtle comedy that's totally unexpected.
It's not a film for everyone; a LOT of folks will HATE it. But.. if you love the REALLY old movies, and you can FIND it, WON TON TON is good for an evening's entertainment.