Review by Ed Nguyen
Cary Grant, Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard
Director: Ralph Nelson
Audio: Mono 2.0
Video: matted-widescreen 1.85:1, color
Features: cast & crew, filmographies
Length: 118 minutes
Release Date: March 26, 2002
those miles of open sea and back again in a seven-foot dink?
modern movie comedies, generally speaking, are not very memorable.
The art of pitch-perfect comedic timing has been utterly supplanted by
broad slapstick, endless sexual innuendos, or worse, prerequisite toilet and
bodily functions humor. This is, of course, not to mention the bland direction,
stupid scripts, and tepid acting that usually accompany these modern comedies.
Sure, these films all have their funny moments, but honestly, who are we
some modern directors (Wes Anderson or Spike Jonze for example) do aim earnestly
for more sophisticated humor, the simple truth is that Hollywood has dialed down
the standards of its comedies to target a younger and more adolescent
demography. Nowadays, Hollywood
just does it oh-so-wrong...
then, did Hollywood used to do it so-very-right? Well first, you need to have a solid comedic lead, someone
with impeccable timing and tremendous charisma.
Many of the supposed male stars today have the on-screen charisma of a
dead tree stump (cough cough Ben Affleck cough). Ah, but with someone like Cary Grant in the lead, now we're
talking! Next, you need a solid
supporting cast. The accomplished
and ever-reliable British trouper Trevor Howard is a perfect foil for Cary
Grant, as is a delightful musical/comedy staple like Leslie Caron.
Then, you pick a wonderful setting with a dash of romance and adventure,
such as a South Pacific Isle during World War II.
And finally, you need a really super script, like Peter Stone's
hilarious, 1964 Oscar-winning screenplay. Mix
it all together, and you have Father Goose,
one of Hollywood's finest classic comedies.
Grant, in superb form indeed, plays Walter Eckland, a crabby, irascible, and
washed-out beachcomber stuck around the Australian waters during the height of
World War II. With the Japanese
soon to arrive en masse, and the British fleeing, naval officers are desperate
to recruit island spotters to spy on enemy aerial maneuvers.
Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard) notices his old friend Eckland,
nonchalantly making off with British petrol for his boat, and decides to
"recruit" him, rather involuntarily, to a vacated post on Matalava
Island. This involves some friendly
sweet-talking accompanied by Houghton ramming his command ship into Eckland's
boat to ensure that Eckland will stay put.
A further incentive of hide-and-seek with whiskey bottles scattered on
Matalava ensures that Eckland will actually bother to keep a look-out for enemy
planes. To this end, the witticisms
exchanged over radio communiqué by the ever-exasperated Eckland, codename
Mother Goose, and the ever-bemused Houghton, codename Big Bad Wolf, are
absolutely priceless. If the entire film were about nothing more than this game of
radio tag played out between Cary Grant and Trevor Howard, it would already be a
wait, the plot thickens! Perry, a
fellow spotter on Bundy Island, has sighted Japanese soldiers landing on his
island and requests immediate evacuation. Eckland
is the only person close enough to reach Bundy Island in time, so Houghton
contacts Eckland with a deal - if he is willing to pick up Perry by boat and
bring him back to Matalava, Houghton will arrange for Perry to take over
Eckland's post. Of course, with his
boat out of commission, Eckland's only option is his small dinghy.
Nevertheless, the prospect of finally being replaced sends Eckland
quickly scooting out to sea. Things are not as they seem on Bundy Island however, and
instead of Perry, Eckland ends up bringing back young school-marm Catherine
Freneau (Leslie Caron) and seven young girls in an overloaded dinghy that
threatens to sink imminently. I
have to admit, I love that dinghy! It
is such a wonderful prop for the film and is the source of many funny sight gags
and hilarious lines.
Freneau and her children reach Matalava, the film really shifts into high gear!
Eckland is still stuck, except now he has unwanted company.
Eckland's laid-back and gruff personality, matched against Freneau's
well-behaved mannerisms (earning her the codename Goody-Two-Shoes), serves as a
source of wonderful comedic friction. He
doesn't understand how she even ended up on Bundy Island with the children, and
since no one wants to stay on Matalava anyways, the situation becomes ripe for
Stone's screenplay really delivers, too! This
is a film set during WWII, so there are a few action sequences and several
genuinely suspenseful moments. But,
Father Goose never strays far from
comedy. While the plot is to some
degree predictable, the exceptional screenplay is so disarmingly charming that Father
Goose is a delight from start to end. The
performances by everyone involved are so much fun that you end up really caring
about these characters, and Father Goose
becomes a film that can be enjoyed multiple times without any loss of
shall not give away any more of the fun in store, but suffice it to say that
*this* is how comedies should be made. Now
if only someone from Hollywood would listen...
presented in its original condition but does not really require any major
restoration. Other than a few minor
scratches, timing dots, and those unavoidable dust specks (none of which detract
from the viewing in the least), the source print for the DVD is in remarkably
fine shape for a film almost 40 years old.
Colors are bright and chipper, thanks to the wonderful Technicolor
processing. The on-location
shots look really beautiful, from the gorgeous clear blue seas to the lush green
island flora. In fact, the film is
simply so pretty that Matalava seems just the sort of tropical paradise on which
you would love to spend a vacation!
there is a minor problem, as seems to always be the case with Artisan's
lower-end DVDs. Artisan's transfers
often suffer from poor mastering, which usually manifests itself as pixelation,
shaky images, awful grain, shimmering or a handful of other woes.
Fortunately, Father Goose has a rock-solid image with minimal grain.
However, edges (especially diagonal ones) are a problem and seem to have
frequent attacks of the "jaggies."
Don't get me wrong - the film's image is still pleasant and extremely
watchable, especially if your TV has a "movie" video option to soften
up the image (my Sony Trinitron can do this).
But, if it doesn't, those jagged edges might be a potential source of
film has a mono 2.0 soundtrack. It
is adequate and clean and does a fine job.
But that's about it. Don't
expect any aural fireworks.
is a short section on cast and crew, plus some filmographies.
And while there are no subtitles, the DVD does have excellent English
close-captioning, if your TV is capable of displaying them.
It's better than nothing.