In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Outbreak

The thriller occupies the same territory as countless science fiction movies about deadly invasions and high-tech conspiracies, but has been made with intelligence and an…

Other reviews
Review Archives

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves.

Other reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Where's Poppa?

  |  

"The Producers," as everybody knows, is about two con artists who deliberately try to produce a Broadway flop. Then they can pocket the money they raised from their backers, and split. Their musical is named "Springtime for Hitler." It's a success, and they go to prison.

About a month after "The Producers" (1968) opened, I got an indignant call from a lady who said she, for one, didn't see anything funny about a musical about Hitler. "If you ask me," she said, "a musical like that should flop."

If you are that lady, don't go to see Carl Reiner's "Where's Poppa?" There is a certain kind of humor that rises below vulgarity. It isn't merely in the worst possible taste; it aspires to be in the worst possible taste. "Where's Poppa?" is the best example of the genre since "The Producers."

Advertisement

It's about a desperate young lawyer (George Segal) who is being driven insane by his cuckoo mother (Ruth Gordon). She's confused, senile, rude, obscene and vulgar. Also, she nags. He can't send her to a home; at his father's deathbed, he promised not to. And yet she scares away every girl he has ever dated. He can maybe not take it much longer. Maybe he'll kill her? Throw her out the window? Maybe a big black dog will come in and eat her? He dreams and dreams, wistfully.

There's a funny supporting performance by Ron Leibman, as Segal's brother. He keeps dashing across Central Park to save his mother, after Segal makes threats over the phone. And he keeps getting mugged. Never mind how he got into that gorilla suit. Never mind about anything in the movie, really. Reiner goes for laughs with such a fanatic dedication that there's no time for logic, plot, character. And why should there be?

Segal is good as playing the harassed son of the archetypal Jewish mother. In "No Way to Treat a Lady," he was the vice cop whose mother kept wanting him to finish his soup before rushing to rescue Lee Remick. In "Where's Poppa?" that premise is pushed to its final, maddening conclusion. Go if you want to laugh and like being offended.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix's Unorthodox Depicts a Melancholic Escape from Faith

A review of the new miniseries Unorthodox, now playing on Netflix.

Cloud Atlas in the Time of Coronavirus

While the pandemic will pass, our awareness of each other should not.

Home Entertainment Guide: April 2, 2020

The newest on Blu-ray and streaming includes 1917, The Grudge, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Leave Her to Hea...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus