September 15, 2008

The Late Show (1977)

For Father’s Day this year, my wife got me a quirky little memoir by Canadian film critic David Gilmour called The Film Club. He tells how he allowed his 15-year-old son to drop out of school, provided his son watched three movies a week with him.

In one passage, Gilmour says he’s hesitant to recommend movies to friends, because there’s always someone who didn’t enjoy his recommendation. That is, except, for The Late Show. Gilmour says he has never gotten a negative reaction from anybody he’s told about this film. So when I saw it on the discount shelf at Music for a Song while on vacation, I picked it up and checked it out.

For aging private inspector Ira Wells (Art Carney), the PI business ain’t what it used to be. Nothing but small-potato capers come his way; he’s a leftover from the golden age of gumshoes. But when an old colleague shows up dying (then dead) at his doorstep, Wells is determined to find out whodunit.

At his buddy’s funeral, he’s handed the case of ditzy Margo Sperling (Lily Tomlin) and her missing cat. From there, it becomes a clash of his ’30s noir dialogue (“dames,” “dolls,” “grifts,” “fence,” “toots”) versus her ‘70s new age lingo (meditating, “vibrations,” “karma,” “grass,” “Pittsville”). Meanwhile, the case of the missing cat snowballs into two-bit thieves, “hot” merchandise, gunplay, a connection to his buddy’s murder, blackmail, and more murders.

If you put aside some of the rough stuff mentioned above, The Late Show is a nice, charming film. It’s actually the kind of late movie you would have seen on TV back in the day. But compared to today’s films, it plays little more than a glorified episode of The Rockford Files (ask your fathers, young dads).

In short: Recommending The Late Show to you (a la Mr. Gilmour) would be like asking you to try a mild new flavor of ice cream. You’d probably say thanks, try it, and never think about it again. That said, if you come across The Late Show, watch it – but I wouldn’t recommend seeking it out.

Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids want to watch it?
I can’t think of any reason they would, unless they’re an older kid and/or a film student.

Will your FilmMother like it?
Eh. It’s pleasant and mildly amusing, but it won’t stay with her after it’s over. Take from that what you will.

The Late Show
* Director: Robert Benton
* Screenwriter: Robert Benton
* Stars: Art Carney, Lily Tomlin, Bill Macy, Eugene Roche, Joanna Cassidy, John Considine
* MPAA Rating: PG (adult language, violence)

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1 comment:

Gemma said...

Where DO you find these movies?? Oh, yeah, you did say---never mind.... Well, I have always been appreciative of Art Carney's dramatic acting abilities. A far cry from the Honeymooners. Oh dear, I guess I'm dating myself. Thanks for all your reviews-- you have given me a reason to make a list of films to rent.


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