Film: "See No Evil, Hear No Evil"
Stars: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Joan Severance
Theaters: Park Lane, Spectrum, Woodland Hills, Admiral Drive-in
and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow, Sand Springs) theaters
Rating: R (profanity, brief nudity)
Quality:***(on a scale of zero to five stars)
It might seem that trying to recapture the comic sparks
that Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor gave off in "Silver
Streak" and "Stir Crazy" is like capturing lightning
in a bottle for a third time.
But "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" aims at just that, teaming
up the two brilliant physical comedians in a buddy picture/chase
movie that has Wilder as a deaf man and Pryor as a blind
And while it's not lightning this movie captures, it does
generate more than the regular output of high-concept wattage
usually expected from such calculated, commerical comedies.
"See No Evil, Hear No Evil" follows closely in the standard
formula of its predecessors (in fact, director Arthur Hiller
was also behind the cameras for "Silver Streak").
It goes this way: Wally (Pryor), the blind owner of a Manhattan
newsstand, and Dave (Wilder), his deaf partner, show up
to work one day and find a corpse on the premises. Before
they know it, they're on the run for a murder they didn't
Their only hope is to track down the real murderers (Dave
thinks he saw a beautiful female suspect; Wally thinks he
smelled her perfume) to clear their names.
That's pretty much the whole storyline.
But it's enough to give the two stars reason to stumble
around trying to avoid capture and catch the real crooks
(Joan Severance and Kevin Spacey) and to fire off scattershot
jokes based on their respective characters' disabilities.
There are some amusing fight scenes and car chase sequences
where Dave has to serve as Wally's eyes and Wally has to
serve as Dave's ears. While this certainly isn't subtle
comedy, it also isn't really offensive. According to production
notes, the film's producers consulted with both the Braille
Institute and the New York League for the Hard of Hearing
in an effort to avoid potential controversy and steer clear
of exploitative humor.
If the movie offends, it will likely be a result of its
sexist references to women, its crude gynecological jokes,
its scatalogical gags and its stream of vulgar language.
But most of that sounds worse than it actually is. Largely,
the film is amiable and ingenious enough to entertain in
an easily predictable, commercial fashion.
The frantic, pop-eyed Wilder and the gaunt, acerbic Pryor
have aged well as a comic duo, and work together with the
ease of veteran vaudevillians.
The movie's committee of five screenwriters (Wilder among
them) manages to give the stars more than enough bits of
funny business to keep the laughs coming rapid fire, and
Hiller ("Outrageous Fortune") has obviously worked the
buddy-movie genre before.
In the most charitable light, it's possible to read into
this film a subtext that shows how the two men can triumph
over their limitations by working together and trusting
in the strength of friendship. But those sentiments are
suggested, never preached.
"See No Evil, Hear No Evil" is just the type of broad,
mainstream comedy that both Wilder and Pryor need to spark
their languishing movie careers to life again. We'll see
(and hear) soon enough if this comic team still has it at
the box office.