Jerry Belson

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Always Review

When asked what their favorite Steven Spielberg movie is, few people, if any, come up with Always, the director's only romance and a remake of a 1944 film. Never mind the airplane flying and the forest fires (the film is set in the high-test world of "smokejumpers," those guys who drop that red extinguishing stuff on fires), this is a movie about a guy (Richard Dreyfuss) who dies in a plane explosion, but doesn't go to heaven (run by Audrey Hepburn, in her final role), instead choosing to stick around the airport and encourage his old girlfriend (Holly Hunter), best pal (John Goodman), and an aspiring pilot (Brad Johnson, the only dud in the cast).

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Smile Review

Very Good
The film references tend to term it "overlooked," but there are many of us who never forgot the wonderful comedy Smile from its theatrical release in 1975. '75 was a great year for movies, and it could be that Smile, like the fresh-faced competitors that populate it, just faced some really rough competition that year; maybe, in the company of Nashville, The Story of Adèle H., One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Grey Gardens, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and so on, this relatively modest beauty fades into the wallpaper. Maybe its comparatively adult wit would get lost among the frantic adolescence of screen comedy in any year. Whatever the reason, it's a pleasure to welcome back a really funny and distinctively American satire, now available on DVD.

Smile charts the progress of a round of finals for the fictitious Young American Miss pageant being held in Santa Rosa, California. The civic force behind this event is a community-minded car salesman named Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern), a yokel with good intentions, an abiding optimism, and an inexhaustible reserve of clichéd bromides about the importance of a positive attitude. Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon) acts as pageant coordinator and den mother to the young contestants; her husband Andy's suicidal tendencies are exacerbated, rather than quelled, by all the forced goodwill she radiates and by the pageant's general, bright, can-do American vibe. Big Bob, especially, finds this mystifying - what on Earth is there to be blue about in a land of such copious opportunity and beautiful young women such as ours? - and the best advice he can muster for his desperate friend is to "go out there and have some fun."

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Fun With Dick And Jane (1977) Review

Never mind the silly title, Fun with Dick and Jane is fun indeed but it's not for kids. George Segal loses his job, and his domineering wife (Jane Fonda) pushes him to get a new job immediately, seeing as they're crushed by debt. Jane tries to land something too, but fails miserably, and in one of the most dryly pointed moments in the film, Dick notes that the only job she's qualified for is as a prostitute. After giving welfare a try, Dick and Jane's fun really begins: they turn to armed robbery. Very lighthearted and surprisingly witty, it's not just a caper comedy, it's also an indictment of the 1970s class struggle. Poor director Ted Kotcheff would end up directing mostly TV and Red Shoe Diaries installments later in his career. Watch for the remake with Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz in 2005.
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