14 August 2006 | bob the moo
The comedy equivalent of bad sex lots of face pulling and noise but no actual enjoyment or satisfaction
When he is out hunting, Arkansas bumpkin Jed Clampett strikes oil on his own land. It doesn't take long for the oil companies to get wind of the largest domestic oil reserve in recent history and before you can say "Texas T", they have bought him out to the tune of one billion dollars (US$ though but still a lot of money). Jed packs up his family and heads out for the lifestyle that he can now afford in Beverly Hills. His new bank manager, Milburn Drysdale expects his new billionaire clients to be the height of breeding and sophistication and is surprised to find that although the Clampetts are "salt of the earth" people, they aren't really "Beverly Hills" material.
One of countless remakes of TV series of yesteryear, this basic, bland and unfunny affair is probably no better or worse than the average television show original but where that has the benefit of nostalgia to strengthen it, this film is left totally exposed in the cold light of modern American cinema. Without this protection the film must stand on its own thanks to a slick narrative, lots of laughs and so on. Sadly the makers seem to have forgotten this and the plot is a predictable and forced narrative along the lines of "little people makin' good". I wanted to care about Jed's search for a wife, or worry about whether he would have his money scammed away, or hope that Elly May can be allowed to be herself but really I couldn't bring myself to give a monkey's at any point. A bit of a problem when it then comes to following a story but then, hey, at least I'll be laughing too hard to care about the detail.
Well, not really. The comedy here is very basic and seems happy to just rely totally on how stupid Jethro is; how tomboyish Elly is; how old Granny is and how everyone else either slaps their forehead with frustration at these characteristics or just do pratfalls over furniture. Attempts at postmodernism are mostly very lazy and lack any inspiration or genuine wit. It might appeal to children but it was all too little for me. The cast aren't able to help much but in fairness several of them are used to operating at this level. The late Varney is actually pretty restrained but this doesn't mean he is funny or produces a good character because he can't. However he looks like Lawrence Olivier next to the mugging ineptitude of Bader, who seems to have been told that "looking confused with a big stupid smile on your face" will produce the type of comedy gold that will stand for all time. He is terrible of course but I do know he is only following direction. Eleniak is a tomboy, and that's about it she never convinces but then so what? Leachman is told to be old and indeed she is, Schneider is bad even by his standards; Thompson's performance makes "Allo, Allo" look like an Open University programme and Coleman clearly needs cash and needs it now (or then I suppose). Tomlin is very out of place but at least she seems to be having fun with it I'm glad one of us was.
Overall then, for those who want to watch old television comedies without the blinkers of nostalgia then this is one good way because it exposes the film for what it is a poorly developed unfunny comedy. Nobody in it can raise the material and instead they are pulled down with it like so many pilots in a nose-diving aircraft; I guess the only difference is that the pilots would be struggling to pull out of the dive whereas here the cast mostly seem blissfully happy to mug along as it spirals ever downwards. A pointless 90 minutes of my evening that gave me nothing back in return for my investment.