Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)


Vietnam-vet movies came in all shapes and sizes during the ’70s, but it’s nonetheless startling to realize that someone thought PTSD was a suitable subject for light comedy in 1974, when the war was still raging. The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder takes place primarily at a VA hospital in Los Angeles, where mischievously charming ex-soldier Julius Vrooder (Timothy Bottoms) lives in a mental ward with several other vets suffering from shellshock. Able-bodied but emotionally fragile, Julius spends his days cavorting around the hospital campus, pulling childish pranks on his doctors and flirting with sensitive nurse Zanni (Barbara Hershey). Accentuating just how disconnected Julius is from reality, he even has a secret underground lair that he’s created across the street from the campus, complete with electricity that he’s illegally siphoning from the city’s power grid. (Never mind the logical questions of how Julius got the equipment and free time needed to build his fortress.) As the story progresses, Julius tries to woo Zanni away from her other suitor—Julius’ uptight shrink, of course—and he tries to evade municipal authorities who want to find out who’s stealing their electricity. And that’s basically the whole movie, excepting a few inconsequential subplots. Among the film’s many problems is the fact that we’re supposed to sympathize with Julius’ unique plight even though he doesn’t seem especially unwell—he treats his hospital stay like a vacation from responsibility, faking seizures or sharing sad war stories whenever he wants sympathy. Were it not for Bottoms’ inherent likeability, Julius would be insufferable; as is, the character is merely uninteresting. Similarly, the fact that the shrink isn’t a formidable romantic rival precludes any tension in the love story—Zanni seems to worship Julius unconditionally, so the resolution of the triangle is a foregone conclusion. As directed by the efficient Arthur Hiller, The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder is too innocuous to dislike, but it’s also far too vapid to make a significant impression.

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder: FUNKY

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