Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Rio Rita (1942)

The first of three pictures that Abbott & Costello made with MGM, who managed to negotiate a deal with Universal that allowed them to "borrow" the stars for a while, Rio Rita is a huge disappointment and one of the weaker films from the duo. One or two decent comedy routines aside, there is very little on display here to really keep anyone genuinely entertained.

Bud and Lou lose another job and end up hiding in a car boot that they believe is heading towards New York. Unbeknownst to them, the driver turns around and they eventually end up at a hotel on the Mexican border, where they get to cause their usual brand of mayhem while also running in to a group of dangerous Nazi spies.

Directed by S. Sylvan Simon, with a screenplay by Richard Connell, Gladys Lehman and (surprise) John Grant, there are very few scenes in Rio Rita that aren't flat or just flat out terrible. Kathryn Grayson is one of the few highlights as Rita Winslow, Patricia Dane is very good as Lucette Brunswick and John Carroll is okay as Ricardo Montera but the characters aren't all that interesting or likeable. The situations they get involved in don't really hold viewer interest until the last fifteen minutes or so and, to add insult to injury, there are also a number of horrid songs scattered throughout. "The Ranger's Song" is so dire and laughable that it almost seems like something from a Monty Python sketch. But it isn't. Sadly, that's the best of the lot.

There's at least some fun to be had when Abbott & Costello just get the screen to themselves and play around with one or two comedy routines. You can laugh at the duo being stuck in a car that's too far from ground level, enjoy a misunderstanding of the phrase "I've got twenty, too" and, best of all, watch the two almost at their very best in the ridiculous scene in which someone bets that they can guess which numbered girl (from a line up) is kissed by whoever puts their money on the table.

Despite those few enjoyable sequences, there's just not enough here to make me ever want to see this film again and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but the most die-hard fans of A & C.


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