The Frisco Kid

So.  I know I’ve started a couple things on this blog that I fully intended to continue on a regular basis but then I didn’t because of reasons.  Of course, some of those were in my head instead of on the blog so you don’t know about it.   Just think of this one as a continuation of my movie reviews like Man of Steel (which I actually want to redo).  I’m on a classic movie kick lately so we’ll start with….

The Frisco Kid

This is a western film originally released on July 13, 1979.  For the record, that’s over two and a half years before I was born.  If you did not notice, this was Friday the 13th.  Maybe that is why I heard the movie was considered a flop at the box office.

How could a Gene Wilder/Harrison Ford flick be a flop?  Those two actors are such legends in my history book.   I idolized Harrison Ford as a kid mostly for Indiana Jones but I got a kick out of most of his work.  I saw Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and then I was later introduced to Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein and a host of hilarious movies.  These two were dynamite separately, now I would see how they faired when thrown together.

Now, when I think of western films, I don’t think of either Gene Wilder or Harrison Ford.  Of course, after this Harrison Ford wouldn’t do another “western” until 2011 when he did Cowboys and Aliens (which doesn’t fully count, does it?)  Gene Wilder visited the genre in  Blazing Saddles but don’t expect to see anything like the Waco Kid here.

Gene Wilder plays a bumbling and honest Polish rabbi on his way across the United States to San Francisco.  Harrison Ford plays a sarcastic outlaw who meets up with Wilder’s character on the road to the west coast.

Both actors are playing to their strengths.  Harrison Ford is not going to go near any heavy lifting acting-wise but will stick with being a funny outsider.  That is completely OK.   Meanwhile, Gene has excellent comedic timing and is great and being a subtle shade of goofy.  I would say that his very full beard covers up his usual great facial expressions but his eyes are the most expressive part of him.

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.  Gene Wilder plays a stereotypical Jewish man complete with accent.  However, there is absolutely nothing in what he does that is insulting or untrue about the culture.  Well, he does mention Polan being near Czechoslovakia which didn’t exist yet in 1850.  Other than that, it’s a depiction of an honest, good-hearted man who just happens to fit a stereotype.  In other words, he is not playing the stereotype, he is playing a character who meets much of the criteria of that stereotype.

Speaking of accents, thankfully Harrison Ford does not attempt a western twang.  It’s not that I think that it would be be bad, it’s just I’m afraid that might be.  Harrison Ford is not a trained actor, he’s just really good at doing what he does best much like Bruce Willis or Charles Bronson.  So it may be unfair but I hold actors like Ford to a lower standard, a bar they can usually easily get over.  Still, he does a really good job here at being the unapologetic jerk with a heart of gold.

This was Gene Wilder’s story.  Much like Mattie Ross is the real hero of True Grit, Rabbi Avram is the true hero of The Frisco Kid.   Though this movie is mostly a funny comedy, it certainly does get very real at moments.   Gene Wilder has proven again and again that he can do comedy and he can do drama and he can switch from one to the other at a moment’s notice.  In my opinion, this movie is about one man’s unending determination.  It also ends up being about friendship and reaching across cultural dividing lines as well but that’s just a pleasant bonus.

It was also really refreshing to sit down and watch a comedy again that is smart and not offensive.  Two men lay together to keep warm without an extended five minute gay joke.   Now, I don’t know about the accuracy of Jewish and Native American culture but from what I could see it was alright.   It could have been just another buddy comedy film but it was definitely smarter than that.

Overall, the movie was funny all the way through and it was defintely heartwarming here and there.   It started well and finished really strong.  I would definitely reccomend it to just about anybody I know.


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