We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
There is a sense in which "Doctor Detroit" could be a Jerry Lewis movie. It begins with the portrait of an eccentric, mild-mannered mope who leads a life of quiet desperation. Enter a mob of colorful Chicago criminals, who change the mope's life forever, furnishing him with an alternate identity and a whole new outlook on life. Mix this up with some pretty girls, some chases and lots of chances to embarrass fuddy-duddies and play with fire extinguishers, and you'd have a Jerry Lewis movie that the French would write a book about.
"Doctor Detroit" is not, however, quite as predictable as I make it sound. Part of that is because of the studied precision of Dan Aykroyd, in the title role. Instead of giving us a standard mope (and, later, a standard berserk maniac), he adds all sorts of little character touches that help the whole movie rise above its production-line origins. There is very little comic invention in the idea for "Doctor Detroit" (the screenplay is Identikit sitcom), but there's a lot of invention in Aykroyd's performance.
He plays Clifford Skridlow, nutty academic, physical culture buff, son of a university president and archetypal Lonely Guy. We meet him walking to work. He's not strolling, he's involved in one of those heel-and-toe Olympic walking patterns that require all sorts of special footwear and goggles and stopwatches; he looks like a fire sale at Land's End.
The movie intercuts his obsessive lifestyle with another one, that of Smooth Walker (Howard Hesseman), one of the more unlikely Chicago pimps to come out of the movies in many a year. Smooth runs a stable of four girls. It's sort of a United Nations: one Oriental, one black, etc. They support him and his stretch limousine, although throughout this movie we hardly ever see them working. They're too busy playing parts in the sitcom.