The End (I) (1978)

R   |    |  Comedy, Drama

The End (1978) Poster

Slapstick black comedy about a man (Reynolds) who finds that he hasn't much longer to live and has bungled his attempts at suicide.

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  • Robby Benson in The End (1978)
  • Sally Field and Burt Reynolds in The End (1978)
  • Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise in The End (1978)
  • Norman Fell in The End (1978)
  • Joanne Woodward in The End (1978)
  • Sally Field in The End (1978)

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31 December 2017 | rmax304823
| Ornate but funny.
Directed by, and starring, Burt Reynolds, this is comedy about a salesman learning he has only months to live is in Woody Allen territory. The script has joke upon joke, few of them demanding to begin with, but then embellished by bits of business that are a little distracting.

Well, I'm giving the elements credit because it's not that easy to make a comedy about having a terminal illness. Dabney Coleman managed to inject a few funny boluses into "Short Time" but "The Bucket List" was a slapdash affair providing an excuse for two older (but sometimes magnificent) actors to do the things we wish we had done. I almost hate to say it but arguably the most entertaining comedy about dying is the Rock Hudson and Doris Day film, "Send Me No Flowers."

Burt's direction of "The End" is function and lapses only into one easy cliché -- a man wakes up sweating and thrusts his goggle-eyed face into the camera. He also drags out amusing moments. The script by Jerry Belson is fast and touches the bases. It may depend a bit much on obvious jokes -- "I told you not to cuss, Godammit." But it more than makes up for such weaknesses.

Eg., Burt goes to make his last confession. The priest is Robby Benson, who looks about fifteen years old. Burt uneasily explains that he has a little difficulty calling him "Father" so the priest suggests Burt just call him Dave. In the confessional, Burt begins with, "Bless me, Dave, for I have sinned." And when the priest isn't regaling Burt with his OWN confession about lust and ambition, he flosses his teeth while listening to Burt talk about infidelity. Burt is doing his best to get organized but there is the intermittent "pluck" and "plick" from the other side of the confessional window.

I really like Burt Reynolds. He's the least prepossessing movie star who ever breathed. Confident enough to be self deprecating in public despite his dark handsomeness. Cary Grant would never have made fun of his own ouvre the way Burt did at an Academy Award presentation by portentously rattling off a string of his own hits, like "Navajo Joe" and "Sam Whiskey."

He can handle serious drama well and with the proper plot he excels, as in "Deliverance." But his ordinariness doesn't seem to work well with comedy. What you get without cultivation is lowbrow slapstick that sometimes is more silly than witty. As a performer Burt has a certain range but comedy broaches the perimeter of possibilities.

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