Sunday, June 9, 2013

They Went That-a-Way & That-a-Way (1978)

The second of two pictures that funnyman Tim Conway made for a short-lived outfit called the International Picture Show Company, this abysmal would-be farce tries to present Conway and Chuck McCann as a bumbling comedy duo. The actors get the bumbling part right, but if either of them actually does anything funny in the course of the picture’s painfully stupid 95 minutes, it escaped my view. Sadly, Conway also penned the flick—one of the only feature-length projects for which he took a solo writing credit—so one fears They Went That-a-Way & That-a-Way represents his best guess at what makes people laugh. To say Conway was someone who benefitted when collaborators raised his game is an understatement. The story concerns a pair of idiot small-town cops (Conway and McCann) going undercover as convicts in order to uncover corruption among prison officials, but mostly the script is a vessel for delivering one sequence of physical comedy after another. Even from the first scene, the gags in They Went That-a-Way & That-a-Way bludgeon the senses with their ineffectiveness. In the opening bit, Conway and McCann sit in a patrol car, and Conway tries to start the car. The failure of the engine to ignite is meant to be funny—during five repeated attempts. And yet then, when a suspect drives by, Conway starts the car without any difficulty, as if the previous five gags hadn’t happened. Unimaginably, it gets worse. The bad guy (played by a valiant Dub Tayl0r) is named “Warden Warden,” the lead characters prove incapable of using such simple devices as potato peelers and tape dispensers without causing chaos, and the “high point” of the picture involves an extended Carol Burnett Show-style sketch of Conway’s character attempting to perform dentistry on the bad guy while repeatedly injecting himself with Novocain. Oh, and the climax involves Conway and McCann disguised as, respectively, a buck-toothed Japanese dignitary and his geisha companion—because, apparently, the film’s various portrayals of brainless rednecks weren’t sufficiently offensive.

They Went That-a-Way & That-a-Way: SQUARE

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