- Movie Rating -

Hanky Panky (1982)

| June 4, 1982

For the rest of my life, I will remain a fan of Gene Wilder.  I mean, the man is a precious gift to comedy – Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Bonnie and Clyde, The Producers, Willie Wonka, Silver Streak, Stir Crazy.  Which is why it pains me to report that his performance in Sidney Poiter’s Hanky Panky is one of most irritating things I’ve ever witnessed.

Wilder screams for most of this movie, a scream that kind of rattles you to the bone.  Sure, he’s in the role of a man falsely accused.  He plays Michael Jordan, a Chicago architect who is visiting New York on business when a beautiful woman named Janet gets into his cab.  She asks him to mail a package for him.  He is captivated by her and visits her at her hotel which she responds to by telling him to get lost.  Then there’s a gunshot from her room and everyone in the immediate vicinity thinks that Michael is the killer.  Soon he becomes the target of not only the cops but also the group that killed her.  Into the strange vortex he goes, through a web of government secrets, contract killers and international espionage in order to clear his name.

Okay, so this a fertile ground for a caper comedy.  This plot is the bedrock of half of Hitchcock’s filmography.  Michael goes on a cross country chase with an ally named Kate (Gilda Radner), who gets dragged into this mess along with him.  When the movie lets the actors work together, they are kind of charming.  I especially liked a scene in which the two have chartered a plane that is flying over The Grand Canyon piloted by a man who is not longed for this world.

That scene is funny and, in fact, the whole movie is a cute little screwball comedy.  But again, for me, much of this movie was undone by Wilder’s screaming act.  He’s so frantic, so hectic and screams for such long intervals that he got on my nerves.  I understand the pressure that the character is under but this kept pulling me out of the film, which is too bad because otherwise this is a pretty good little film.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1982) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy