Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Director: Amy Heckerling

Starring: Michael Keaton, Joe Piscopo, Marilu Henner, Maureen Stapleton, Peter Boyle, Griffin Dunne, Danny DeVito, and on and on and on

More Info: IMDB

Tagline: Organized crime has never been this disorganized

Plot: Set in the 1930's, an honest, goodhearted man is forced to turn to a life of crime to finance his neurotic mother's skyrocketing medical bills.

View Scene:

And here's another one...

My Rating: 7/10

Would I watch it again? Chyeah, you fargin' icehole

I'm crackin' up just thinking about it. The last time I saw this was in the 80s. 20 years later it's still killin' me with laughter. Back then it was the first time I saw Keaton and I could see the guy was funny but I didn't realize then how good of a job he does in this.

In those 20 or so years I've become a HUGE James Cagney fan. In fact, he's my favorite actor. Every film I've seen of his, and I've seen lots, he's been great and is always a joy to watch. He's got this energy and charisma that I've never seen in any actor - ever. He adds so much with his mannerisms that is pitch-perfect for every character he plays. If anyone else tried it they'd look like a cartoon but Cagney pulls it off. And he's just as smooth and natural in a comedy as he is as a badass gangster. He's quick, smart and light on his feet.

JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY is a send-up to the exact pictures that Cagney made in the 1930s so if you're going to get someone to embody Cagney, he'd better be good. Keaton nails it to the back wall. I'm not saying he could double for Cagney, no one can do that, but in this picture he doesn't have to. He just has to bring out the essence of a Cagney performance in a gangster comedy. It's a light, quick, smart, funny performance. Tops.

Keaton gets the most laughs, naturally, but everyone in this picture gets their share of jokes & gags. I've always liked Joe Piscopo and enjoyed what he brought to Saturday Night Live and I never understood why people bash him. He's funny in this despite his (and everyone else's) one-dimensional character.

JD feels like a 70s Mel Brooks picture. The film opens up with a street scene and the year "1935" at the bottom of the screen and then...

Great stuff. The laughs are fairly consistent with barely a dull moment. Not all of the gags work and that's OK because the ones that do work feel original and fresh, like the one above. There's some great cameos by Dom DeLuise as the Pope, Ray Walston (Mr. Hand from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH) has a very funny recurring gag, Alan Hale Jr. (Skipper from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) has a handful of scenes as a desk sergeant, Taylor Negron, Vincent Schiavelli and on and on.

Maureen Stapleton is HYSTERICAL and has some of the best lines in the picture. And then there's Merilu Henner as Johnny's Moll!!! HUBBA HUBBA! Just give me 2 hours in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of town with her and...

I could keep going but you get the point. It's not a laugh-a-minute ride like I'd want it to be but it's got plenty of great old-fashioned genuine belly laughs and a truly wonderful make-or-break performance by Michael Keaton that makes me want to watch a Cagney picture. And I did just that.

Oh, yeah, and kids? So ya think crime pays?

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