Featuring noteworthy participants in front of and behind the camera, the international-caper comedy Silver Bears should work. Every so often, however, talented people miss the mark for reasons that defy comprehension, resulting in disappointments like this one. Silver Bears isn’t a disaster, and nobody in the movie does anything embarrassing, although costar Cybill Shepherd’s performance is iffy. Yet Silver Bears is inert. Despite being cowritten by one of Hollywood’s pithiest wordsmiths and despite starring the reliable Michael Caine, Silver Bears is too confusing, too silly, and too uneven to merit any reaction other than indifference.
Here are the broad strokes of the convoluted storyline. English swindler “Doc” Fletcher (Caine) gets American mobster Joe Fiore (Martin Balsam) to buy a Swiss bank, using down-on-his-luck Italian aristocrat Gianfranco di Siracusa (Louis Jourdan) as a front. Gianfranco then convinces “Doc” to invest in an Iranian silver mine owned by Gianfranco’s cousins, Agha (David Warner) and Shireen (Stéphene Audran), as a means of bolstering the bank’s assets. This brings the group into the orbit of UK mogul Charlie Cook (Charles Gray), who helps control the world’s silver market. Later, American banker Henry Foreman (Joss Ackland) hears the Swiss bank is onto something big, so he sends underling Donald Luckman (Tom Smothers) to buy the Swiss bank. Donald brings his wife, Debbie (Shepherd), along for the ride, and soon “Doc” romances Debbie as part of an elaborate scheme to defraud nearly every other character in the storyline.
Cowriter Peter Stone, who achieved caper-cinema immortality with the Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn romp Charade (1963), sprinkles an amusing line here and there, since he presumably was hired to embellish an existing script by Paul Erdman. Alas, even Stone’s delicate touch isn’t enough to compensate for bewildering story elements, one-dimensional characters, and unbelievable plot twists. Shepherd’s character alone is a tangle of contradictory behaviors, because she’s mousy at one moment and promiscuous at the next. Caine and Jourdan try to slide by on charm, but the minute either actor steps offscreen, it becomes apparent that whatever he just said or did was nonsensical. Still, the assortment of actors in Silver Bears is beguilingly random. Charles Gray from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)? David Warner from Straw Dogs (1971)? Tom—make that Tommy—Smothers??? Overseeing the whole mess is Czechoslovakian director Ivan Passer, who paces scenes briskly but shoots them without any special style, a problem exacerbated by Claude Bolling’s dorky musical score.
Silver Bears: FUNKY