Friday, August 31, 2012

A Dangerous Method

The only reason I wanted to see A Dangerous Method is because it was made by David Cronenberg.  I don't know or care much about psychology.  I am liking Michael Fassbender's work so far, but Viggo Mortensen is pretty hit-and-miss for me and Keira Knightley generally stars in the film adaptations of books I never wanted to read.  Cronenberg, though, is always (in my experience) interesting as a filmmaker, at the very least.  I was a little hesitant to see A Dangerous Method, though.  I just had difficulty seeing the promise of a Cronenberg movie that was fenced in by actual historical figures and facts.  That practically guarantees a lack of head explosions, and what's the fun in that?
A Dangerous Method centers around Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), one of the first and foremost trailblazers in psychoanalysis.  Young, married, and Fassbendery, Dr. Jung is at the cutting edge of his profession, back when Freud's ideas were still new and radical.  Jung took a particular interest in his patient Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley).  When she came to him, Sabina was defiant, afraid, and spastic.
And, apparently, born the same way as Uruk-Hai
In other words, she was a perfect test subject for psychoanalysis.  Jung is able to treat Sabina so that she no longer covers herself in feces and throws unreasonable tantrums.  Through the course of treatment, Jung learns quite a bit about Sabina; he learns that she is extremely intelligent, understands psychoanalysis, and has a spanking fetish.  While it may be hasty to call her "cured"...
Fingernail biting: the final obstacle to sanity
...Jung decided that Sabina was capable of living a normal life and encourages her to study to become a doctor, like him.  Around this time, Jung is invited to a meeting of the foremost minds in psychoanalysis, where he meets his idol, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen).  Freud recognizes Carl's brilliance and takes Jung under his wing, as his heir apparent.  Jung has his doubts about the absolute nature of Freud's theories --- is everything about sex? --- but keeps those thoughts to himself.
Like Freud's ridiculous "Beard Theory."  Pah!  Mustaches are the future!
As Jung's fame grows, so does Sabina's insight.  As a successful patient as well as a successful psychoanalyst, her thoughts are often clever and unique.  As she and Jung develop their professional relationship, however, it becomes apparent that Sabina is very attracted to Jung.  Obviously, this is a case of transference.  But what's a little transference between friends?
Spanky, spanky!
Their romantic relationship complicates things.  On a personal level, Jung has a wife whom he feels morally responsible for (and who is extremely wealthy), even if he does not share a deep connection with her.  He is magnetically attracted to Sabina, physically and intellectually, but he does not want to give her the love child she craves.  On a professional level, Sabina could easily make their relationship public knowledge and discredit Jung with the rest of Freud's faithful.  Jung's increasingly vocal criticisms of Freud's refusal to change his theories even a little also threatens his status as Freud's heir apparent.  Oh, Carl Jung --- you so crazy!
Relax --- it's just an expression

The acting in A Dangerous Method is quite good.  Viggo Mortensen, in particular, was both charming and compelling as Sigmund Freud.  Michael Fassbender gave an interesting performance as a cold, calculating man that could not deny his passion.  Keira Knightley, when she wasn't doing an impression of a mentally ill person, was good as a needy, manipulative temptress.
"I want you to word associate me so hard...!"
In the beginning of the film, though, Knightley's craziness was unintentionally funny.  I'm sure she did her research, and that Sabina Spielrein really did have some crazy spastic movements.  I'm just not 100% certain that the best way to convey that illness is jutting out your jaw, like it's trying to escape your face.  I will say that this is the best Tasmanian Devil impression I have seen on the big screen.  It was a complex role, and she nailed the dramatic parts --- she just seemed silly when she played "crazy."  Vincent Cassel was good as the intelligent (but unrepentantly lusty) Dr. Otto Gross, who provides one of the explanations for the film's title.  Cassel is at his best when he is doing dirty, dirty, things, and that's what Gross was all about.
Dr. Gross, with his 1 o'clock appointment
The only other cast member worth mentioning is Sarah Gadon, who played Mrs. Jung.  Hers was a small part, but she conveyed the repressed emotions of her character well.

David Cronenberg's direction in A Dangerous Method was not as impressive as the acting.  I genuinely liked how well he developed the characters and how the actors were directed.  However, it is up to the director to take that and make it into something compelling, if not simply entertaining.  Simply put, this is a dull movie.  The most dramatic moments come when characters are reading letters.  It is so boring, in fact, that the novelty of Fassbender and Knightley's bondage and spanking scenes barely breaks the monotony.  For the record, I have no problem (in theory) with a slow-paced film.
Dramatic pause sip your tea
I do not, however, have much tolerance for being bored.  It is not the pacing that is at fault, though.  The larger problem of A Dangerous Method is the story focus.  The conflict between Jung and Freud was interesting, as was the forbidden romance of Carl and Sabina.  Unfortunately, this script split the story's focus between those two plots.  Either one could have made for a compelling film, but there isn't room for both to be represented equally.  Instead of a compelling drama about either relationship, we get what amounts to a Carl Jung biopic.  Biopics are not my favorite film genre, but if anyone can spice up the traditionally predictable biopic structure, it would be David Cronenberg.  He likes to make films with cool characters and unusual imagery, and that is exactly what is needed for an interesting biopic.  Instead, we get a haggard-looking Keira Knightley in an ill-fitting bodice.
Knightley is a size zero, so that makes her clothes...size -2?
While I believe that Michael Fassbender did a very good job as the subtle, reserved Carl Jung, he simply is not very compelling as a main character.  We don't see his actions as interesting or dynamic --- heck, we don't see him taking action.  There are just conversations, followed by letters, followed by reply letters, followed by conversations.  Period piece dramas don't have to be dull, but A Dangerous Method is not a movie I would use to prove that point.  Good acting can only take a movie so far without a plot that makes you care about the characters.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


My memory of movies is kind of shoddy.  I can remember, in detail, where I was and who I was with for certain movies, but others just float in a memory vacuum.  I remember the movie fine, but I don't know when or why I watched it.  Twins is one of those mystery movies for me.  I know I enjoyed it as a kid, and I can recall a decent portion of the movie, but I don't know why I liked it or who I would have seen it with.  Maybe a look at the trailer will help jog my memory:
Even though I have seen Twins several times over the years, I can hardly believe that trailer was real.  It looks like someone trying to make a legitimate movie from a discarded SNL sketch.  It looks awful.  And yet I have positive memories of it?  I am definitely starting to doubt the merits of my nostalgia.  

Twins begins on a remote South Pacific island, where the inexplicably accented Julius (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is told for the first time that he has a twin brother.  Naturally, he assumes his brother will be a lot like him: impossibly fit, scientifically brilliant, and eager to be reunited with his family. 
Yes, I said "brilliant."  If you suspend your disbelief now, this movie will be much easier to watch.
Julius then hops in a raft and paddles his way to California to find his brother.  Naturally.  As it turns out, Julius' long-lost brother looks and acts nothing like him.  Hint: that's where the comedy comes in!  Vincent (Danny DeVito) is a short, fat, bald weasel of a man.  He aspires to white collar crime, but is willing to settle for stealing cars and selling them to chop shops.  In his free time, he constantly disappoints his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Linda (Chloe Webb).  When Julius finally (after one, maybe two scenes) tracks down Vincent, Vince is in jail.  Being a loving brother, Julius offers to pay the steep bail with his enormous briefcase of cash.  Of course, Vincent doesn't believe he is the twin brother of an Austrian bodybuilder, but he's not going to deny anyone the pleasure of getting him out of jail.  From that point on, all Julius has to do is convince Vincent that they are brothers and track down their missing parents.  And all Vincent has to do is stay one step ahead of some ruthless criminals who want to kill him.  That sounds like a pretty full plate for these two, but keep in mind that they both have to grow as people, learn to love, and waltz to a Jeff Beck cameo.
This is the movie that inspired the "Sounds legit" meme

The acting in Twins, while broad, isn't as goofy as the film's concept.  What is perhaps more surprising, in retrospect, is Arnold Schwarzenegger's competence in a comedic role.  Sure, he'd been funny on occasion in his action movies --- my personal favorite is him punching a horse in the face in Conan the Barbarian --- but this was his first real comedy.  His acting chops are clearly limited...
Arnold, reading his lines
...but his timing is actually pretty good.  Ahnuld is not a natural, but his stilted acting fits the innocence of his character and his broad expressions fit the gags in this movie.  Danny DeVito's performance is harder to describe.  In the beginning of the movie, he is the closest thing the audience has to a character that is thinking what they are thinking --- specifically, the phrase "Yeah, right," over and over again.
DeVito, discussing the plausibility of this script
As the film progresses, though, Vincent starts to believe.  That makes sense, because the audience is (hopefully) going through the same transition, if the film is working.  The way DeVito handles that change is to start acting consistently goofy to match Ahnuld's awkwardness.  That silliness is amplified by the fact that DeVito is forced to carry the dramatic moments in this movie because Schwarzenegger simply can't.  The ladies (Chloe Webb and Kelly Preston) were just fine in their supporting romantic roles.  They didn't have a lot of personality, but it was enough for their limited screen time.  It is worth pointing out that a young David Caruso has a small part in Twins as the parking attendant.  Sadly, he does not wear any sunglasses in this film.

Twins was directed by Ivan Reitman, toward the back-half of his incredibly successful run in the 80s and early 90s.  Reitman's skill set as a director seems to be allowing the talent to do their thing in front of the camera and edit it into a cohesive story later.  That method works when you've got an improvisational master like Bill Murray in your movies.  Replacing Murray with Schwarzenegger doesn't get the same result.  One side effect of that is a reliance on much, much broader comedy in Twins than in Reitman's best films, Stripes and Ghostbusters.  That's not necessarily a terrible thing, but it makes for a far more generic and formulaic comedy.
Except for the part where the brothers prepared to crush those poor, poor children

Reitman deserves credit for taking an absolutely ludicrous concept and making it into a watchable, even likable film.  That was not inevitable. 
It could have been much, much worse
What makes Twins work is how warm it is.  Yes, the plot is idiotic.  No, the acting is not very impressive.  Yes, the main concept also serves as the bulk of the film's jokes.  But it's pretty damn cute.  The physical comedy of the two brothers in sync, while not subtle, is well done.  The same goes for the ludicrous plot; as much as I want to hate this movie, seeing DeVito and Schwarzenegger with those puppy dog eyes, asking about their mom is downright adorable.  Is Twins a classic?  Definitely not.  It's pleasant, but utterly disposable entertainment that is almost immune to logic and scrutiny.  And it's pretty good for what it is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Love You Phillip Morris

The first memory I have of I Love You Phillip Morris was from about four years ago, when I noticed it as an announced project on Ewan McGregor's IMDb page.  Not knowing anything about it, I assumed it would be something along the lines of Thank You For Smoking.  I was wrong, if only because there is an extra "L" in this title's "Phillip;" for the record, though, I still think you could make a pretty scathing comedy about someone in love with Philip Morris products.  Being a fan of McGregor and a supporter of Jim Carrey's more artistic efforts, I looked forward to seeing I Love You Phillip Morris.  Despite getting good reviews at Sundance in 2009 (January '09, specifically), it was not released in American theaters until December of 2010, almost two years later.  What could possibly explain such a long delay for a picture that, if critics were to be believed, did not require an overhaul?
Ah.  Gay.  Gotcha.  It probably didn't help that Carrey had A Christmas Carol about to come out and Mr. Popper's Penguins in the works around the same time, either.
Isn't it funny when actors take chances instead of conforming to their brand?

I Love You Phillip Morris is the true story of Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carrey).  When the movie begins, Steven is a married police officer with a young daughter.  It's pretty obvious that he's not as happy with his life as his wife is; Steven's facial expressions during sex reminded me of Halloween in elementary school, when someone handed you a bowl of cold noodles in the dark and told you they were intestines --- ewww!  Pretty soon, Steven has come to terms with his unhappiness and decides to stop living a lie.  He swaps hetero- for homo- with his acknowledged sexuality and starts a new life.  Good for him, right?  Everybody deserves to have some joy in their life.
An example of "gay" and "happy" being synonyms
Steven's change isn't just acknowledging his sexuality, though.  This was a life change for him; he's not just the same guy who is now openly attracted to men, he's now really, really flamboyantly gay.
Note: personal style does not denote sexuality
That's not particularly noteworthy.  What is, though, is Steven's perception of what he needs to be a happy gay man.  He moves to Miami and finds himself a sexy boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro), and everything seems to be working out just fine --- but the life Steven wants is beyond what his finances can support.  So, he puts his years of experience of living with lies to good use and becomes a con man.  While he's a pretty good criminal, he has to commit a lot of fraud to support his lifestyle and eventually gets caught.  However, in this story, that's where things hit their stride.  In jail, Steven meets the love of his life, Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), and they fall in love.  And that's great.  But when Steven can't stop lying and conning, he starts to risk losing Phillip.  Being a fairly unconventional thinker, though, Steven always has a plan to win Phillip back.
Phillip's reaction to most of those plans

The acting is what makes I Love You Phillip Morris engaging.  When you think about it, the story balances on how likable Jim Carrey can make a man who lies to everyone, whenever he can; it's kind of like Liar, Liar, only with repercussions.  It doesn't help that this is a movie about gay men that are not cross-dressers, played by famous Hollywood actors; that's not a concept that Hollywood seems to have accepted as a remote possibility.  The script isn't exactly razor sharp, either.  To put it another way, if you don't like gay jokes, awkwardness, and innuendo, there might not be much here for you.
And if you're homophobic, you'll want to take notes.  You know, on what you don't like.
If, however, the idea of Jim Carrey taking his over the top skills in another direction intrigues you, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Carrey is actually quite good.  Naturally, his gift for physical comedy provides some of the easiest and most frequent chuckles, but his timing on deadpan jokes is much improved, too.  What impressed me the most about the acting is how good Carrey and Ewan McGregor were as a couple.
It's adorable when couples match
McGregor plays a much smaller role than his titular status indicates, but he was also good.  I think he was at his best in quieter moments; his dramatic chops were well-used as the frequently heartbroken and disappointed Phillip and his best jokes were understated.  Rodrigo Santoro wasn't funny, but he was better than his role of (essentially) Handsome Man Number 1 required.  Leslie Mann was fine as Steven's ex-wife; she had some good lines, but she was also the character that asked the obligatory ignorant gay questions. 
Example: "If gay means happy, then why do you cry so much?"

I Love You Phillip Morris is the directorial debut of co-writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.  I have trouble assessing the direction in comedies sometimes, because it is so easy (and usually rewarding) for a director to go for a joke instead of the story.  That trouble is amplified when the directors are also the writers.  Still, I think Ficarra and Requa did a pretty good job with Phillip Morris.  They obviously got along with the principal actors well and were smart enough to balance abrasive sexual jokes with some solid emotional content.
My favorite raunchy joke: "Golf?  Why don't you just eat pussy?"
What limits the movie is that the script isn't that great.  Yes, it is balanced (for a comedy), but there were an awful lot of jokes that were more shocking than funny.  I like dick jokes as much as the next guy, but I'm also over the age of thirteen and can handle more complex material.  Ficarra and Requa stuck with what got them the gig --- writing Bad Santa and the Bad News Bears remake --- but they need a little bit more to make the transition from "decently amusing" to "genuinely funny."
Fancy underoos are a start

I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting with I Love You Phillip Morris.  Once I figured out that it wasn't about cigarettes, I mean.  It was pleasantly raunchy in a way that I haven't seen in mainstream movies in a while.  It had a protagonist with realistic and understandable obstacles to overcome.  The supporting cast was good.  I would even call it "cute" if there were fewer audible moments of fellatio.  I guess I was hoping for something that was trying to be funny more than shocking.  I know, I know...the shocking parts are the funny parts.  They just weren't funny enough for me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider has never interested me as a character.  Yes, his flaming skull looks pretty cool, but that's where the intrigue ends for me.  When Ghost Rider was released in theaters back in 2007, I thought it looked terrible, so I never watched it.  Despite some harsh reviews, the movie managed to make over $200 million worldwide.  You would think a sequel would be a no-brainer --- and it is, no matter how dumb the first film looked --- but Columbia Pictures was hesitant.  They ended up giving the go-ahead, but only after the budget had been cut to less than half of the first movie.  Normally, I would take that as a sign to stay the hell away from Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  But then I noticed that Neveldine/Taylor were directing.  The directors of Crank and Nic Cage, working together at last?  That is a recipe for some serious Lefty Gold.
...and the flamethrower urine scene clinched it.  Let's get Ghost Ridden!  Wait...that came out wrong...

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance does not, in fact, begin with the title character.  Instead, Moreau (Idris Elba) has arrived at a monastery to warn the monks of the dangers they face.  The monks are providing shelter to Danny Ketch (Fergus Riordan) and his mother, Nadya (Violante Placido --- a wonderful action movie name).  Well, they were.  Some bad dudes showed up and killed the monks; though Danny and Nadya escaped, Moreau knows that they will be caught before the solstice, unless something drastic is done.  Naturally, his first thoughts went to the Ghost Rider.
Ghost Rider: when "drastic" isn't drastic enough
Moreau tracks down Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) and offers to have his priest buddies remove the Ghost Rider curse from Blaze if he manages to keep Danny and Nadya safe.  What's the deal with them?  Well, the devil (Ciarán Hinds) wants Danny for some nefarious purpose.  Do you need more of a reason than that?  It really shouldn't matter, as long as it gives us an excuse to see Ghost Rider puking metal on a bad guy.
Flaming pee is great, but molten puke is almost as good

The acting in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is about what you should expect from the people behind this movie.  Nic Cage is predictably ridiculous, so your enjoyment will rely heavily on how much Crayzee Cage you can handle.  I thought he was actually fairly solid, balancing some lightweight angst with unintentionally funny scenes where he is fighting to keep the Rider from taking over his body.
I wish this shot made the final cut
Was he actually good?  God, no.  He was suitably silly enough for the script; there is a big difference.  Violante Placido doesn't really do much.  She whines about her son and wonders why bad things happen to characters who have the devil's baby.  In other words, her character is in the film to add a pair of boobs to the cast, and in that, she succeeded.
...AND booze?  Double success!
Idris Elba was okay.  He handled a French accent well enough, and his character's love of wine added some cute moments.  Little Fergus Riordan was decent as a child actor, which can be translated as "he wasn't irritating."  Ciarán Hinds was a solid choice to play the villain, but I would have liked to see him be more obviously bad.  His devil was a pretty sorry-ass lord of darkness.  His lead henchman wasn't any better, either.  Blackout (Johnny Whitworth) starts out as a none-too-terrifying thug, but he is transformed into this:
Johnny Winter?
He now had the power of decay and the ability to do some sort of thing where people can't see him and I guess he moves fast or something.  I didn't quite get that bit, but I caught enough to reconfirm my belief that albinos are too powerful and evil to not register as lethal weapons with the government.  Anthony Head appears at the beginning of the movie and almost immediately dies off-screen.  Rounding out the notable cast is the always peculiar Christopher Lambert, who allegedly underwent several months of sword training to prepare for his role as the guy who fell asleep at the frat party.
It was a very literate fraternity, apparently
Why would Lambert need months of sword training for only a few minutes of screen time?  That's a good question.  A better question, though, is "Why would Lambert need sword training after all those godawful Highlander movies?"

The direction of Neveldine/Taylor fit surprisingly well with the script for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  They kept the pace going pretty quickly, and most of the downtime was filled with unintentional humor:
Example: the devil smelling a fart
...or intentional humor, like Ghost Rider pissing flames or enjoying Kajagoogoo.  I don't always like the work of Neveldine/Taylor, but they did about as much as they could to make this movie entertaining, given the script.  Granted, making it "entertaining" doesn't negate the fact that this is a stupid, stupid movie, but at least it doesn't take itself seriously.  The script, though, is pretty wretched.  David S. Goyer wrote the story and co-wrote the script, but he didn't do either very well.  This screenplay is either littered with holes, or the editing process was wretched.  When you consider some of the odder moments in the script --- A punk rocker with a hippie van?  The devil can't get enough followers to fill more than a few rows in a stadium? --- I think it's pretty obvious that the writing is at fault.
Please tell me that the Rider will hunt Goyer down for his sins

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was never going to be a legitimately good movie.  Never.  It could have been close, if it had been rated R and let these crazy co-directors do whatever random stuff popped into their heads, but this is about as much fun as I can imagine having with a Ghost Rider movie.  They fixed some of the small things from the first movie -- Cage's hair looks real this time and there's a lot less self-pity --- and also had fun with some ridiculously over-the-top additions (like the Ghost Rider construction vehicle).  The special effects looked pretty good, and that's even more impressive, given their slashed budget.  Even when you consider all that, this is still on the lower end of comic movie adaptations, thanks to some uninspired campiness and poor writing.
 ...but that's only if you take this movie seriously.  If you want something to enjoy after a few drinks, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a solid choice.  It gets a Lefty Gold rating of

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Alphabet Murders

Agatha Christie's character Hercule Poirot has always been difficult for filmmakers to cast.  The caliber and type of actor playing the part has varied greatly over the years --- Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, Albert Finney, Alfred Molina, and David Suchet have all worn the funny mustache --- but the general attitude toward the character has remained fairly static.  Hercule Poirot is a brilliant amateur detective that earns the respect of Scotland Yard, despite his overblown vanity regarding his appearance.  The Alphabet Murders decides to try something different.  What if this was a mystery with a bumbling detective?  And Poirot was played for laughs?  Wouldn't that appeal to everybody absolutely no one?

The Alphabet Murders is based on Agatha Christie's whodunnit, The ABC Murders, minus only the plot and most of the details.  The film opens with Tony Randall, as himself, addressing the camera and explaining that he will be playing the part of the great Hercule Poirot. 
Subtly, no doubt
If nothing else, I have to admit that was an unexpected choice.  Randall then transforms into Poirot and, after a few gags involving him breaking the fourth wall, the plot is afoot.  Almost.  It seems that Hercule Poirot is not held in high esteem by the British police, even as they find themselves in the middle of a murder spree.  Instead of consulting with Poirot, Soctland Yard sends Hastings (Robert Morley) to guide Poirot safely out of London and on a plane to his homeland of Belgium.  How well does that work?  Let me put it to you this way: when Hastings is onscreen, his movements are accompanied by a tuba on the soundtrack.
Bum-ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum-dum-dum...
The reason Poirot doesn't oblige the Brits is because he was approached by an Amazon a desperate woman (Anita Ekberg); Poirot begins the case out of idle curiosity, but it becomes something more when he accidentally meets her on the street and she claims to not know him.
It's not surprising that he would remember her, though.  Low-key outfit, lady.
Why would anyone ask for Poirot's help and then claim not to know who he is?  What does this mystery woman have to do with the murder of a clown?  Wait...what?  A clown?  Let me check my notes...well, I guess that's right.  Clown murder.  ***sigh***
"Is that really any more ridiculous than anything else here?"

How was the acting in The Alphabet Murders?  Universally overdone.  However, the script did call for broad physical comedy, so I can't fault the actors for playing to the script.  Having said that, Tony Randall was dreadful as Hercule Poirot.  Imagine an actor from the 60s doing an exaggerated impression of a gay Frenchman and you will have the general idea of Randall's performance. 
Don't give me that look.  You're the one mugging the camera for laughs.
Robert Morley played his bumbling supporting role adeptly, although he failed to provide any laughs.  Morley is just very believable when he plays characters who inevitably get locked inside closets.  If his character was suicidal after as a result of his own incompetence, I might say Morley did a fantastic job, but the character sadly is oblivious to failure and embarrassment.  Anita Ekberg was fairly blank as the mystery woman, and the plot gives a reason for that blankness, so...I guess she was adequate?  The rest of the cast is pretty unmemorable and inconsequential to the larger story, although I did recognize a young Julian Glover in a small role and Margaret Rutherford (who played Agatha Christie's other prize character, Miss Marple) had a cameo.

When I look at director Frank Tashlin's body of work, it's not surprising that he made a murder mystery into a farce.  This is a guy whose biggest movies involved Jerry Lewis, so of course he spends a lot of time on "jokes" that no one could enjoy. 
Get it?  The mirror shows the wrong person talking!
Still, The Alphabet Murders could have been a much better movie and a lot of the blame lies on Tashlin.  If his direction had actually led me to laugh, or even smirk, I would cut him some slack.  Instead, he just had two funny-looking men stumble across the screen for the better part of 90 minutes without anything to show for it.  The acting was insultingly broad, the editing was not crisp enough for the gags the script provided, and the mystery is just confusing instead of suspenseful.  I will give credit where it is due --- there are about fifteen minutes in the final act of the movie where this mystery gets interesting.  Not coincidentally, they are the fifteen minutes free of gags.

In all fairness, I should point out that The Alphabet Murders was given the comedic treatment after Margaret Rutherford starred in four semi-comedic movies based on other Agatha Christie works.  It appears that this movie went a bit too far, though. 
Tony Randall was never meant to be a sex symbol
It would be almost a decade before another film was made using the character of Hercule Poirot; after that, he was primarily relegated to public television made-for-TV movies.  I still can't wrap my head around how awful this movie is.  I've recently started to wonder if there have been any good Agatha Christie movies made, but this weak attempt left me depressed.  It's one thing to make a mystery devoid of sense and suspense.  It's another to do that and undercut everything with humor that makes Nancy look like a comic genius by comparison.