Road to Rio stands apart from the other "Road" films as having the most eclectic mix of film, radio, and recording celebrities and references. Where other "Road" films concern themselves with cinematic deconstruction (Road to Utopia, Road to Bali) and others are mired in B-movie plot development (Road to Singapore, Road to Zanzibar), this "Road" proceeds more like a variety show within a flimsy extended sketch comedy framework.
In Road to Rio, Bob and Bing make a run for it after burning down a circus and causing hell on earth. On the run, they hide out on an ocean liner and they both fall hard for the luminous, sexy Lucia Maria de Andrade (Dorothy Lamour). But while the boys are following her around like lap dogs they find out that Lucia is under the evil spell of her sinister aunt (Gale Sondergaard -- who else?). To curry favor with Lucia, our duo sidestep each other to help her and end up, as always, in too deep. But as long as there are woman on board they don't care.
The plot itself is insignificant -- in fact the narrative is along the lines of such previous Hope spy spoofs as They Got Me Covered, My Favorite Blonde, and My Favorite Brunette. What is significant is the comic set pieces and the performing guest stars (the Andrews sisters, the Wiere brothers, Jerry Colonna -- hell, even Tor Johnson makes an appearance). The film is also rife in show biz references to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Inner Sanctum, Kool Cigarettes, Bogart and Bacall, Betty Grable, Crosby's racehorses, and the Warner brothers. It's a veritable privy of pop -- most of which will be completely unintelligible to folks whose knowledge of pop history begins with Foreigner and Sugar Ray.
The director of Road to Rio is Norman Z. McLeod and it is both fascinating and jaw-dropping to see how McLeod rips off his own earlier Marx brothers romp Monkey Business, this time with Hot Lips (Hope) and Skats (Crosby) as stowaways on an ocean liner bound for Rio. Like the Marx brothers, half the film concerns Hot Lips and Skats trying to avoid the crew members of the ship. McLeod even has the audacity to re-create the entire barbershop scene from Monkey Business, transformed into a Hope and Crosby turn.
Out of all the "Road" films Road to Rio boasts the best cast of villains. Frank Faylen and Joseph Vitale are effectively sinister heavies and the Spider Woman herself, Gale Sondergaard (right on the cusp of being blacklisted), is on hand as the cold and slinky villainess.
Road to Rio is a pleasant and breezy treat from an era that loved celebrities much more than they hated them. So don't take a long, wet leap, give your frown the Full Fuller, cackle at Hope and Crosby, grin like the Wiere brothers and you'll discover the world is not such a sink hole after all.
Aka The Road to Rio.
With a girl from Ipanema.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 25th December 1947
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Producer: Daniel Dare
Screenwriter: Edmund Beloin, Jack Rose
Starring: Bing Crosby as Scat Sweeney, Bob Hope as Hot Lips Barton, Dorothy Lamour as Lucia Maria de Andrade, Gale Sondergaard as Catherine Vail, Frank Faylen as Trigger, Joseph Vitale as Tony, George Meeker as Sherman Mallory, The Andrews Sisters as Andrews Sisters
Also starring: Jack Rose
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