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

Yellowbeard

  |  

Monty Python has already done its pirate satire. The prologue of "Monty Python's Meaning of Life," which was one of the best parts of the film, involved that funny fantasy in which deskbound insurance clerks turn their ancient building into a galleon and set sail against the enemy skyscrapers. It was funny, it was quick, it was original. None of those statements apply to "Yellowbeard."

I guess there's a built-in danger with satires of old movie genres like the pirate movie. Once you've got everybody in costume and equipped them with a sword, a mustache and some handy cliches, there's the temptation to think they're funny. Not true. You've got to go ahead and write characters and create a plot that leads from laugh to laugh. The sight of movie stars looking ridiculous is not, in itself, funny -- or the Academy Awards would be a laff riot.

Advertisement

"Yellowbeard" seems almost to have exhausted itself with its casting. This movie contains half the population of most of the movie comedies of the last decade. All three big box-office comedy categories are included: the Python movies, the Mel Brooks movies and the Cheech and Chong movies. From Python, there are Graham Chapman, Eric Idle and John Cleese. (Going even further back in British comedy history, there are Peter Cook and Spike Mulligan.) The Brooks graduates include Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Kenneth Mars and Marty Feldman. Cheech and Chong represent themselves. And there are cameos by such distinguished British actors as James Mason, Michael Hordern, Susannah York and Beryl Reid.

Anybody, in short, who is anybody is in this movie. I wonder if they had most of their laughs during the coffee breaks. The movie itself is a chaotic mess, in which herds of actors rush from one side of the screen to the other, waving their swords, making threats, and looking lost. The plot involves the most evil pirate of all time, but as Graham Chapman plays Yellowbeard, he never seems truly evil or even very mean -- and with that anchor gone, the whole plot's meaningless.

There's a funny line or two, a fetching performance by Stacey Nelkin as a young wench, some nonsense about a buried treasure, and then "Yellowbeard" is soon over and soon forgotten.

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