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I know this isn't the normal brand of humor from Allen. But I think it's for the better. Although I enjoy the Allen films of the day, I must say I like his early days better. The days of "Bananas," "Sleeper" & "Take the Money and Run." And "Don't Drink the Water" brings back the young Allen more than any film I've seen as of late. The cast is perfect, well at least 99% of the cast is. The girl who used to be Blossom wasn't perfect, but she was good enough. The gags come so fast you have to watch the film twice. Because while you're laughing another gag has come & gone. I liked the fast pace and for the most part enjoyed the documentary type camera. The best way for me to discribe this film is it's kind of like "Grand Hotel" set in the early 60's, in the USSR and only faster paced. So if you liked "Grand Hotel" or the Allen films of the late 60's & early 70's, then this is perfect for you. 8 out of 10 (it made me laugh, a lot. Isn't that what comdies are all about?)
I LOVE THIS MOVIE. The story involves visiting American smucks in the old communist Russia. A picture is snapped in the wrong spot and the KGB assumes the family are spys. They take up residence in an American embassy and need asylum. Love blossoms and tempers soar--an old fashioned screwball comedy. I know some people say it's not one of Woody's best...and it isn't. It isn't even close to the top of that list. But...I laugh my tush off with this movie. Alex Keaton and Blossom are great. Woody Allen is, well, Woody Allen. It is nothing but a popcorn movie. Flawed? Yes. It is very funny though and a great mid level Woody movie in the same vein as "Take the money and Run'--but with a plot. Watch it, enjoy it, laugh.
Woody Allen's 1994 remake of "Don't Drink the Water" is an absolutely
perfect comedy. This film was made 25 years after the awful 1969 original
was made and watching both back to back, it is quite a
I really hated the previous film, which starred Jackie Gleason. It made the deadly mistake of taking the premise too seriously. Silly comedies are not supposed to be taken seriously! Also, the 1969 film added about 19 minutes of filler that wasn't in the original play.
Allen's film begins with the family already in the American embassy. The crime: Woody Allen takes a picture of a landmark in an Iron Curtain country and is mistaken for a spy. I won't reveal anymore of the story because it is so dependent on surprise.
Everything works in this version. Allen himself stars in the Gleason role and his neurotic personality is a much better fit for the character. Julie Kavner plays his wife and has a much better part than Estelle Parsons did in the first film. The wife is NOT an annoying airhead, but a strongwilled woman and that is welcome. Michael J. Fox is the politican who tries to save the family and he is wonderful in the role. Dom DeLuise is cast as a lunatic priest who wants to be a magician.
Allen's script is funny because it is tongue in cheek. It plays on the standard conventions of hostage picures. Also, Allen likes to play with the plot in interesting ways and take all sorts of unexpected twists and turns. In his best films ("Purple Rose of Cairo", "Sleeper", "Small Time Crooks", "Zelig" to name a few), that is why they're so good.
Now on video after a long battle over rights, "Don't Drink the Water" is everything the original wanted to be but wasn't: a hilarious comic masterpiece. Rent or buy this version now. The 1969 version isn't on video anymore and hopefully it will stay that way.
**** out of 4 stars
Who but Woody Allen would have a character become delusional as BOTH Wright brothers?Fine performances all around ,with Dom DeLuise giving a great turn as priest/would-be magician in hiding.Infinitely superior to the 1969 film with Gleason.A minor gem from All
I caught this on videotape and watched it over and over again - it's
hilarious. The best comic performance by Fox, the best by Delouise
(whom I normally loathe), great performances by all.
Allen's performance (basically, he's playing his own father) is stunning in his effortless timing, and he directs the ensemble around him accordingly.
The camera work is nothing special, but what do you expect from TV? That this made its way to television is itself part of the miracle.
My own guess is that this is the production that Allen should have retired on - he hasn't made a dam' thing of interest since.
But this is perfect.
Flawlessly ridiculous - a precious gem of American comic theater.
More faithful in tone and probably in detail to Woody Allen's
successful 1966 Broadway farce (589 performances from 17 Nov. 66 to 20
April 68 at the Morosco, Barrymore and Belasco Theatres) than the
successful but now badly dated 11 Nov. 1969 film, this made for TV
movie suffers from a rather unrelenting craziness of pacing that worked
better on stage than in the intimacy of the small screen.
Woody Allen's nebishy lines fall naturally from his own lips, but lacking the distance or the simply larger body Stanley Prager had to work with when directing Lou Jacobi as the naive Newark caterer who is accused of spying while innocently taking vacation pictures while on vacation in an unidentified Eastern European country on Broadway - or Howard Morris had when directing Jackie Gleason in the coarsened role in the 1969 film - Allen comes across less sympathetic and more blindly hysterical.
Nevertheless, Michael J. Fox (who had already been BACK TO THE FUTURE in his successful trilogy but was still a couple years from his last successful sitcom, SPIN CITY) as the disaster prone son of the ambassador who grants the family asylum balances the hysterical performance of the author nicely, as do TV favorites Julie Kavner (TRACEY ULLMAN and THE SIMPSONS) as Allen's wife and Mayim Bialik (BLOSSOM and THE BIG BANG THEORY) as his daughter and Fox's inevitable love interest.
Since the Cold War was essentially over by the time this picture was made, it remained a nostalgic picture of an earlier era told in farce form with comfortable narration from the late great announcer Ed Herlihy to remind us of the context (Americans believed innocent tourists were picked up on the slightest pretext to "trade" for captured Soviet spies after a few well publicized "spy trades").
Written at a time before the Middle East blew up, the visit of an unidentified emir and his harem (that the US wants to cater to for good relations - OIL hadn't seriously entered the picture yet) is played, along with an Orthodox priest who's been in asylum in an apartment on an upper floor of the embassy for six years and counting (an idea which horrifies the Allen character who can't bear the elevated menu at the embassy and can't understand why they can't send out for Chinese) as minor plot contrivances.
If this sort of old fashioned humor isn't your cup of tea, DON'T DRINK THE WATER may not go down too easily, but as an honest souvenir of Cold War humor and the transition period between Woody Allen's stand-up beginnings and his later serious films, it's well worth a look for any serious student of film or Allen. If you can take the stage farce pacing, it will even provide a fair share of honest laughs - more than the '69 film in any case.
"Isolated in the Embassy" situations have been grist for the comedy mills for years - although it's been a while since we've had a new one. Billy Wilder's 1961 ONE TWO THREE (based on a Ferenc Molnar play, "Egy, kettö, három") where a hard charging Jimmy Cagney tried to deal with the love and marriage of a runaway daughter of an Atlanta Coca Cola executive for a passionate East German worker while Berlin was still divided, or Art Buchwald's sadly unfilmed 1970 play SHEEP ON THE RUNWAY which satirized the havoc a right wing columnist like Joseph Alsop could cause in a front line embassy were probably better structured and hold up better than the early Allen play, but they all came from essentially the same well. All worth a look for nostalgia and more.
I had read about how Woody Allen wrote a play called "Don't Drink the
Water", and that there was a movie version in the sixties. This TV
version from 1994 is the only version that I've seen, and I really like
it. Focusing on an American family traveling behind the Iron Curtain in
the early '60s and having to flee to the US embassy after an unpleasant
situation, it's very much an Allen movie. Especially the line about the
screenwriter. It's too bad that this isn't one of Allen's more famous
movies (especially when the god-awful "Everyone Says I Love You" is
well-known). Mayim Bialik, who plays the daughter, is apparently more
famous for a different role. I had never heard of her until I saw
"DDTW" - and I don't recall having seen her in anything else since I
saw this movie - so I'll most likely always associate her with this
role. Really good.
Also starring Michael J. Fox, Julie Kavner, Dom DeLuise (RIP), Josef Sommer, Edward Herrmann and Austin Pendleton.
I have been recommending this movie to friends for ages, not knowing that they had no possible way of actually seeing it since for some reason it never came out on video. The earlier version (with Jackie Gleason leading the cast) is a poor substitute. It has some of the same jokes, but none of the wit. It also does not have the SOUNDTRACK which in the 1994 made-for-TV-version was a sublime showcase for some very hot Bulgarian tunes. (I am a folk dancer, so I know my Bulgarian music!) The Gleason version gets air time ten-twelve times a year on cable and regular TV, but the 1994 version does not. It may have been made for TV, but seemingly it never comes back to the TV. I know because I have been reading the TV guide every week for a year now looking for this movie(!)
As usual, this Woody Allen is directed and written by the diminutive
New Yorker but the more unusual fact is that it's both based on an
older play written by the man and also already been filmed in an
inferior (according to Allen anyway) version that he had nothing to do
Allen also stars as Walter Hollander, a man who ends up having to hide in an American Embassy with his family (Julie Kavner is wonderful as Marion Hollander) after photographing a landmark in a country located on the wrong side of the iron curtain. Michael J. Fox is the young man trying to sort out this misunderstanding while his father (Josef Sommer) gets exasperated. And then there's the priest, played by Dom DeLuise, who has been staying in the embassy so long that he simply craves an audience for the magic tricks that he's been teaching himself.
This has some great performances in it (Allen is great, Kavner is great and Michael J. Fox has always been a favourite skilled comic actor of mine) and some wonderful one-liners but it's just missing something, overall, when compared to many of Allen's better comedies.
Perhaps it's the lack of something more intelligent running through the material, although there is still some smart stuff here and there this is primarily a light farce. Perhaps it's just too easy to foresee the ending coming and everything just feels a bit too neat.
Maybe it's just because I'm not as big a fan of farce as I am of other types of comedy. Whatever the big sticking point, this just doesn't measure up to most of the other movies in Allen's filmography and simply fails in comparison to most other comedies of the 90s.
Not that the 1969 film was terrible, for me it was not quite as bad as said to be, but while there were bright spots it was an average film overall. This second version does have some claustrophobic-feeling camera work and the ending does feel too neat but it is the much better version of the two. The production and costume design are done beautifully, which despite the camera work makes it a more appealing film visually. The editing here actually compliments the timing of the gags rather than hinders it. Allen's films nearly always have great soundtracks and this soundtrack doesn't disappoint at all, it's fresher-sounding and far more mellow and is in a style that I much prefer, it's also more fitting. The dialogue is smart and hilarious as well as intelligently structured, it's sharper, more witty and has much more bite(all three of which were missing in the earlier version) that sounds more like Allen's writing style. The pacing is zippier, with the film just flying by, and much more farce-like, like it was always intended to be, instead of taking the premise too seriously. The characters are indeed broad which is never a bad thing for farce and they are more interesting and likable even if deliberately neurotic. Allen's directing is just fine, and his performance does show genuine and more consistent comic timing, neurotic sure(not unusual for Allen) but not in a too samey way. Julie Kavner shows great chemistry with him and she matches him in comic timing, she's also one of the most strong-willed Allen female characters-which was refreshing-and a more interesting character than Estelle Parssons'. Michael J.Fox is actually charming and funny and never too much of a dunce(yes even for a character where that trait is called for), while Dom DeLuise provides much entertainment in how hilariously bad his magic tricks are while more restrained than he could be. Edward Hermann is inspired casting though could have been seen more. Mayim Bialik is not quite as effective as everyone else and a little plain but she is more than serviceable still. Overall, it may not be among Allen's best and is one of his weaker outings of the 90s(with only Shadows and Fog, still a decent film, and Celebrity, which to me is one of Allen's overall weakest, rated lower) but it is a lot of fun and fares much better than the 1969 film. 7.5/10 Bethany Cox
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