Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
Posted by martinteller on April 14, 2012
A send-up of film noir, featuring Steve Martin interacting with classic clips. My cousin recommended this as a movie similar to What’s Up Tiger Lily? and although it’s a very different approach, it’s pretty much the same concept. The story and gags are constructed to work around the original footage. It ends up being a really confusing plot, but that’s fully in line with the old Chandler stories. You don’t really care who’s killing who and who wants what, you care about the mood and characters and the hard-boiled dialogue.
Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) both the narrative and the comedy are far more satisfying when it’s just Steve Martin with Rachel Ward or one of the other actors (such as director Carl Reiner, a clear parody of the von Stroheim character in Sunset Blvd). It’s here where the jokes really hit their mark, and there’s a lot of laugh-out-loud moments. But when it comes to interweaving the old footage, the gimmick wears thin. A fan of noir is going to see most of the references and jokes coming, and a non-fan probably wouldn’t really care. There are clips from about 15-20 movies in all, including a few I haven’t seen (and one I’m coincidentally about to watch). I did appreciate the use of lesser-knowns like The Bribe and Johnny Eager, but they may have been better off sticking exclusively with heavy-hitters like Double Indemnity and Notorious. It’s hard to say.
In terms of rating the film, this is saved from the “Fair” level by a handful of really good jokes, the good intentions of the concept, and a decent understanding of what makes noir tick. But just barely. A lot of it doesn’t work and the idea of mixing new footage with old (even though the integration is handled fairly well from a technical standpoint) is better in theory than in execution. Rating: Good