** Who’s Minding the Store? (1963)
Relative newbie Olive Films continues to release the oddest mix of films to DVD and Blu-ray with the arrival this week of the Frank Tashlin/Jerry Lewis film Who’s Minding the Store from 1963. For reasons only the French continue to understand, Jerry Lewis ruled comedic film acting from the late ’50s to the mid ’60s, playing variations of the same hapless character in numerous collaborations with writer/director Frank Tashlin (The Geisha Boy ‘58, Rock-a-Bye Baby ‘58, Cinderfella ‘60, this film and finally/mercifully The Disorderly Orderly in ‘64). First off, I need to say that I’ve never seen a Jerry Lewis movie from this era before, clips of them for sure, but never an entire film. By the time I started watching movies, Lewis had already been relegated to Labour Day telethons, talk shows and walk on parts.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Who’s Minding the Store? - I’d hoped it might have a sort-of innocent mid-century charm and I’ll admit to finding a several sequences, if not funny, at least endearing. In the final analysis however, there’s a reason Lewis’s reign at the top was so short-lived. Quite frankly, the fact that it occurred at all remains a complete mystery to me. The humour reminded me of the dull, aching kind that pervades the likes of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and almost every Adam Sandler picture I’ve had to suffer through. It’s broad, slapstick comedy in the vaudevillian tradition and it simply doesn’t translate forward. If you can imagine a feature length Gilligan’s Island movie, you’d be getting close. What Who’s Minding the Store is closest in spirit to is a Steve Erkel-era TV sit-com. Yes, it’s really that bad. Watching vintage Lewis all these years later is about 90% painful and 10% fascinating. There’s a undeniable charm to the simplicity of the setups and a bizarre lack of mean-spiritedness in his self-deprecating brand of humour, but it just isn’t funny anymore.
Ok, so lesson learned…. the Olive Film Blu-ray did look great though. Agnes Moorehead, Jill St. John and a particularly good Ray Walston co-star.
Skip it unless you’re a fan.