Monday, September 16, 2013

How To Frame a Figg (1971)



From the ’50s to the ’70s, the Walt Disney Company perfected such a surefire formula for live-action family comedies that it was inevitable other studios would try to copy Disney’s style. Hence pictures like How to Frame a Figg, a Don Knotts vehicle featuring broad slapstick, campy acting, spoon-fed storytelling, and the kind of super-obvious music cues one usually encounters in cartoons. Unfortunately, Universal Studios—the entity responsible for this dud—failed to include a kid-friendly story. Rather, How to Frame a Figg is like a watered-down version of a Preston Sturges farce, with a small-town stooge getting turned into a patsy by corrupt local officials until he turns the tables on them. To get a sense of how poorly the storyline of How to Frame a Figg meshes with the juvenile presentation, consider the supporting character of Glorianna Hastings (played by Yvonne Craig, better known as “Batgirl” from the ’60s TV series Batman). She’s a seductress hired to dupe hapless hero Hollis Alexander Figg (Knotts). How does a harlot with a closet full of fur coats she’s gotten from “doting uncles” belong in a kiddie flick? Disney’s live-action pictures of the same era featured such kid-friendly contrivances as teenagers with superpowers. Simply presenting any old narrative information in a childlike manner isn’t nearly enough to mimic Disney’s magic. Furthermore, the jokes in How to Frame a Figg are so old-fashioned that the movie feels like it was made in the ’50s, not the ’70s. The movie’s main location, City Hall, has an “amusingly” malfunctioning elevator that sputters during every ride; the main bad guy is a geezer who keeps falling asleep during meetings; and so on. How to Frame a Figg is so enervated that at least three big jokes involve people getting things spilled on them in the local diner, and costar Frank Welker—who later became a prolific voice actor in cartoons—plays the hero’s idiot sidekick with a kind of gee-whiz credulity that makes him seem lobotomized. Adding the final insult, Knotts performs a long scene in drag—although, by that point, the dark veil he wears is a relief because it obscures the ridiculous open-mouthed expression he employs about a zillion times in How to Frame a Figg.

How To Frame a Figg: LAME

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