SLAPSTICK (OF ANOTHER KIND) (1982)
Article 4664 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Steven Paul
Featuring Jerry Lewis, Madeline Khan, Marty Feldman
What it is: Attempted comedy
An affluent couple gives birth to what they think are deformed idiots. In truth, they are extraterrestrials who become super-geniuses when in physical contact with each other.
There was a time when I was a huge fan of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and I remember reading the novel on which this was based at the time of its release, and being incredibly disappointed by it. If there’s any one thing that this movie makes me want to do, it’s to give the novel another shot, at least partially to see if I appreciate it more nowadays and partially to see just how badly this movie handles it. To be perfectly fair, I doubt that I’ll feel that this movie screwed up a promising premise; what I think I’ll feel is that there was no way to effectively translate the novel to the screen in the first place. Certainly, I wouldn’t have tried to make it a slapstick comedy, despite the title; in fact, this movie is never worse than when it resorts to that sort of thing. I certainly wouldn’t have filled the cast with actors known for broad comedy; I would have tried for actors capable of subtlety and satire. At the very least, I would have tried to capture a sense of Vonnegut’s work, and I think this movie misses the boat completely in that regard. About the only thing I liked about the movie were a couple of fleeting moments where the movie featured cameos by actors impersonating famous comic actors; I spotted Laurel and Hardy at one point as well as Leo Gorcey, and the fact that they existed as nothing more than reference points (they performed no shtick) seemed somehow to be the right touch. As it is, the movie is an extremely bad example of an adaptation that probably wouldn’t have worked even under the best of conditions.