Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972)

After directing two low budget, critically accepted movies (Greetings and Hi, Mom!), Brian De Palma heeded the siren call of Hollywood and took on the Tommy Smothers vehicle Get to Know Your Rabbit. The only reason to see this film, as far as I can tell, is to gain a better understanding of why he went on to make all the other stuff; which, even if you don’t like it, at least looks like it had a director.

Someone must have thought there was an audience for this film when they greenlit it. It’s more or less disappeared except in the kind of video stores where they group films by director and is therefore “important” in studying the young director’s development. But who decided that a “traditional,” Rock Hunter-like star vehicle about a tap-dancing magician would draw a crowd that would accept the bare breasts and lewd, not particularly funny humor it supplies as a bonus.

Plus, I have no idea who Tommy Smothers is. And I think I’m supposed to, because he sure doesn’t do anything remotely interesting in this movie. He goes from overworked executive to the afore-mentioned tap-dancing magician without really learning anything or telling us anything about him-or-our-selves. Along the way, he meets a cast of unfunny eccentrics, all of whom are variously repulsive except for Katherine Ross, who is dismissed in the credits as “the Terrific Looking Girl” and is way too sexually focused on paperboys to be that entertaining. Who is this hottie who groupies magicians in sequined top hats in dive bars? None of these eccentrics (aside from an over-involved, incompetent boss) actually affects the plot, either.

The “point” of the film, inasmuch as there is one, is predictable and poorly handled. Smothers’ efforts to escape are far too successful, leading to a return to the old pattern. Unfortunately, Smothers’ reaction to that pattern is exactly the same as his first reaction. So he’s learned nothing either. There’s no growth, no point, no satisfaction (good or disturbing) for the audience.

Luckily, De Palma learned something (he had the film taken away from him and the ending re-shot) and went on to do things his own way, which is admirable if not always something I want to see. Better that, though, than this studio tripe dressed up to look “hip.”

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