Monday, November 26, 2007

Now Playing: Used Cars

I had this sitting on my desk about two years ago and never got around to watching it. So I threw it into the Netflix queue again and when it showed up this time I decided to plow through it.

I’m glad I did because there’s some genuinely funny material in the script. This was one of the early films in Robert Zemeckis’ career (before he went all digital all the time) but even considering that it’s still a solid piece of pop entertainment. Few directors can build to a zany ending quite like him and it is fun to see shots and techniques he would later use in Back to the Future among others.

The film kicks off by introducing a very young Kurt Russell smoothly bilking some poor sap into buying an extremely used car. Russell is brilliant in comedies (yes, even Captain Ron) and his timing is impeccable. It’s hilarious watching him navigate through a sleazy world like this with such cavalier ease.

But as good as he is, the late, great Jack Warden easily steals the show as twin brothers Roy and Luke Fuchs, owners of a set of used car lots right across the street from the other. Warden was a brilliant character actor and when he picked up a role he could sink his teeth in he tore it up. Used Cars is vintage Warden and he’s hilarious as the foul-mouthed, unscrupulous used car dealer (though that goes without saying) and his kinder, gentler brother. Warden has an easy rapport with Russell and the rest of the cast which makes it that much funnier when he’s bad mouthing everyone in sight.

This being a Zemeckis comedy it builds to a hectic finish with a killer punchline. Overall it’s a fun slice of late 1970’s and early 1980’s comedy before the internet and cell phones. Watching it 20 something years removed is fun in a time warp sort of way, especially when Lenny & Squiggy show up to drop in an inspired pirate spot to a televised football game, but the comedy on display is eternal. Check this out and prepare to laugh heartily.

A lot.


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