A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Live and Let Die" is the ninth James Bond picture, and not exactly the best. It has all the necessary girls, gimmicks, subterranean control rooms, uniformed goons and magic wristwatches it can hold, but it doesn't have the wit and it doesn't have the style of the best Bond movies.
This may have something to do with the substitution of Roger Moore for Sean Connery as 007. Moore has the superficial attributes for the job: The urbanity, the quizzically raised eyebrow, the calm under fire and in bed. But Connery was always able to invest the role with a certain humor, a sense of its ridiculousness. Moore has been supplied with a lot of double entendres and double takes, but he doesn't seem to get the joke.
The plot this time begins in the usual way, with the disappearance of what are inevitably described as "three of our best men." One died in New York, one in New Orleans (during a funeral that turned out, alas, to be his own) and one in the Caribbean. Needless to say, a string of coincidences link the murders and they seem to lead to Mr. Big. Mr. Big is played, I guess, by Yaphet Kotto. I have to guess because either I wasn't listening or it was never quite explained whether Kotto was fronting for Big or was really Big all along and just pretended to front for him. Not that it matters; the movie doesn't have a Bond villain worthy of the Goldfingers, Dr. Nos and Oddjobs of the past.
The bad guys, indeed, are a little banal. In the past, Bond has conquered evil scientists bent on enslaving the world. He has broken up a scheme to destroy our space satellites with laser beams. He has, let's see, saved the dollar by protecting our gold supply (something the current administration is less successful at). That's big-time stuff. But this time, all the bad guys are doing is growing a billion dollars worth of heroin in order to take over the illegal dope industry from the mob. (They're black, but the movie's ads mercifully refrain from promising they've got a plan to stick it to the man, maybe out of deference to Bond's British origins. This is, after all, Discover America summer.)