Monday, April 10, 2006

How come nobody told me about this?

Maybe my taste in films has degenerated along with my attention span and work ethic, but I'll be damned if The Tall Guy isn't one of the funniest, most free-wheeling and enjoyable romantic comedies ever. Yes, ever! Superlatives abound. I've never heard anyone even mention the film, which opened in 1989, featured the beatific Emma Thompson in her screen (and bosom-bearing) debut, and gave us a hint of the cutesy havoc screenwriter Richard Curtis would wreak in his time.

Perhaps it's because most people turn it off during its slow first half hour. But those who refrain are justly rewarded: Jeff Goldblum and Rowan Atkinson dancing in nuns' habits and sequined red mini-skirts! A giddy, out-of-the-blue montage in which all the characters sing along to "It Must Be Love"! An absurd staging of a musical version of The Elephant Man, featuring the heartrending love song "He's Packing His Trunk"! And a furniture-destroying, milk-carton-flattening, piano-playing sex scene that would've topped this list had I known about it.

Goldblum (like Oliver Platt, John Malkovich and Christopher Walken) is best at playing himself, and even then it's hit-or-miss. But his character here -- Dexter, a charming, hapless West End theatre imp -- is a perfect fit. Who else can deliver the line "I hope all your children have very small dicks! And that includes the girls!" with such hollow, self-aware aplomb? Throw in Rowan Atkinson as a megalomaniacal comic ("What in the name of Judas Iscariot's bumboy is going on?") and Thompson as a carnally blunt antidote to Meg Ryan ("Are you going to walk me home? Or should I just get murdered on my own?"), and you've got a refreshing, exuberant bit of British irreverance toward sex, dating and theatre. Consider this exchange between Dexter and his prim, glib agent Mary, who is decidedly un-Poppinsish:

AGENT: Well, the only other thing at the moment is a new musical that the RSC are doing.
DEXTER: Er, what's it about?
AGENT: The Elephant Man.
DEXTER: A musical of the Elephant Man? What's it called?
AGENT: "Elephant," I think -- with an exclamation mark presumably.
DEXTER: Pity the poor bastard who has to play the elephant.
AGENT: Remember dearest, everyone thought Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.
DEXTER: Jesus Christ Superstar was a stupid idea.
AGENT: True.

You can guess who plays the lead in "Elephant!" The results rival the hilarity of "Red, White & Blaine."


Maria said...

This movie is a gem. I can't remember the last time I couldn't stop laughing just thinking about scenes from a movie, which is exactly what happened the day after I watched The Tall Guy. Luckily I was only at work when the giggles started. Had I been at church or a funeral, it would have been a laughing-fit disaster.

I found the Elephant: The Musical parts to be the most hilarious. Oh man. Funnier than Springtime for Hitler.

P.S. Dashing new pic, J.J.

J.J. said...

Ah yes, I should've brought The Producers into the mix. Perhaps I'll post about satirical faux-musical numbers in the future. The Tall Guy's elephant men tap dance number and "Somewhere in Heaven Is an Angel with Big Ears" deserves a place right next to The Producers' "Springtime for Hitler" and Waiting for Guffman's "Stool Boom."

Beedow said...

i was going to try to leave some sort of fun comment on how exciting it sounds and how i'll have to see it someday. but i had no fun comments, and deleted all of my previous attempts. so there. i would like to see the movie though.

Anonymous said...

Beedow, you would love it. When you're finished touring the country, you should get Netflix and immediately add it to your queue.

Anonymous said...

Ultra-trivial 2 cents worth:
THE TALL GUY was directed by Mel Smith, who also played the Albino in THE PRINCESS BRIDE-- he can be seen in the dungeon where they're torturing Cary Elwes.

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