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Scat Sweeney, and Hot Lips Barton, two out of work musicians, stow away on board a Rio bound ship, after accidentally setting fire to the big top of a circus. They then get mixed up with a potential suicide Lucia, who first thanks them, then unexpectedly turns them over to the ship's captain. When they find out that she has been hypnotized, to go through a marriage of convenience, when the ship reaches Rio, the boys turn up at the ceremony, in order to stop the wedding, and to help catch the crooks. Written by
ROAD TO RIO (Paramount, 1947), directed by Norman Z. McLeod, marks the fifth installment to the popular "in name only" comedy series featuring that famous trio of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Unlike its preceding adventures of ROAD TO ZANZIBAR (1941), MOROCCO (1942) and UTOPIA (1946), ROAD TO RIO is no doubt funnier than its initial entry, ROAD TO SINGAPORE (1940), yet coming across on its own merits presenting itself almost like a straight-forward musical-comedy than its predecessors consisting of offbeat situations, talking animals and formalistic Hollywood in-jokes. Certain aspects, however, ranging from opening titles bearing animated names of its principal players dancing across the screen; to the wide-eyed/ bushy-mustached Jerry Colonna coming from nowhere leading his calvary on horseback belting out a long wide yell; Hope and Crosby's "patty-cake" routine and witty comedy lines are true reminders of this being very much a part of the "Road" adventures the public then has grown to love so well.
The plot gets off to a really good start in a carnival where the smooth talking "Scat" Sweeney (Bing Crosby) has his pal "Hot-Lips" Barton (Bob Hope) doing a high wire bicycle act leading to disastrous results before the carnival catches fire, burning to the ground. To avoid capture by an angry boss and mob, the boys make a run for it, ending up as stowaways taking refuge in a lifeboat of the S.S. Queen bound for Rio. During their voyage, they encounter the beautiful Lucia Maria De Andrade (Dorothy Lamour) traveling with her aunt, Catherine Vail (Gale Sondergaard). As Scat and Hot Lips each vie for Lucia's affections, they become confused by her sudden mood changes (from "I love you," to "I hate you," I loathe you," "I despise you" ...) reactions, unaware she's actually under a hypnotic trance by her aunt, whose intentions are for her to forget about these men and concentrate on her forthcoming marriage. Upon their arrival in Rio, Scat and Hot Lips obtain jobs working for Mr. Cardoso (Nestor Paiva) in his nightclub with three odd-ball musicians (The Wiere Brothers) who don't speak any English, before braving Mrs. Vail's henchmen (Frank Faylen and Joseph Vitale) disguised as a pirate and Caribbean dancer, to entertain at Lucia's wedding, to extremely funny results.
In between Hope and Crosby antics and Lamour's hypnotic trance, song interludes by Johnny Burke and James Van Heusen enter the scene, including: "We're on Our Way" (sung by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope); American standards of "Swanee River" (by Stephen Foster), and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" (by James A. Bland); "But Beautiful" (sung by Crosby); "You Have to Know the Language" (sung and performed by Crosby and the Andrews Sisters); "Experience" (sung by Dorothy Lamour); and "Brasilia (I Yi Yi)." Crosby's performing on board ship with the Andrews Sisters (Laverne, Patti and Maxene), a popular singing trio during the World War II years, ranks one of the film's several highlights. For being the longest (100 minutes) in the "Road" series, Crosby's vocalizing of "But Beautiful" to Lamour was usually one that got deleted from most television prints during the 1970s and 80s to fill in enough commercial breaks during its standard two hour time slot.
This highly entertaining and worthwhile "Road" entry, formerly presented on American Movie Classics (1997-2001), is often hailed as the last great "Road" comedy, though certainly not its finish. ROAD TO BALI (1952) and THE ROAD TO HONG KONG (1962) came after-wards, indicating its popularity was best suited for the 1940s rather than the forthcoming decades. With all "Road" comedies placed on home video and DVD over the years, ROAD TO RIO not only has had limited TV revivals in recent years, but labeled as one being "out of print" by DVD distributors. With the overplayed ROAD TO MOROCCO listed among one of the greatest comedies by the American Film Institute, ROAD TO RIO, with Crosby, Hope and Lamour at their finest, is certainly entertaining enough to merit attention and availability for future generations to endure. (***1/2)
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