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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
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 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.
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(!)
Woody Allen and company provide nearly non-stop laughs in this
hilarious TV-movie version of his play, "Don't Drink the Water," done
in 1994. Allen plays Walter Hollander, a New Jersey caterer who is
accused of being a spy and seeks asylum in the local American embassy
with his wife (Julie Kavner) and daughter (Mayim Bialik). The embassy
already houses a priest (Dom Deluise) who, in the six years of
domicile, has been practicing magic tricks. He doesn't have the hang of
any of them yet. Also, the embassy is expecting a visit from an emir
who shows up with attendants and 12 wives. The ambassador (Josef
Summer) is in Washington and has left the place in the non-capable
hands of his son (Michael J. Fox) who, when he took over the Brazilian
embassy, had them importing coffee. Edward Herrmann is the assistant,
Kilroy. After a nasty bang on the head, he thinks he's both Wright
Brothers. There are state police and soon protesters outside. It's a
set-up for disaster.
Everyone is fabulous in this chaotic film, and there are plenty of bits besides the failed magic tricks that provide laughs aplenty. One of the funniest occurs when Allen demands real food like boiled chicken, and the chef announces he's serving rabbit. He's holding the priest's rabbit that he uses for his magic tricks, and a chase ensues. Kavner as Marion is a riot as she irons, vacuums, and spars with Allen, who is in top form. When Allen announces he can't wear silk because it aggravates his skin - he has the thighs of a princess, according to his doctor - it's priceless.
I highly recommend this movie for people who just want to be entertained and laugh their heads off. It's not deep, it's not relevant, it's not vulgar, it's the kind of comedy that used to be done - crazy, funny, with great characters. Good for what ails you.
For those who are familiar with Allen's work, this TV adaptation of the play will be no surprise: it's funny, well-timed and far superior to the miserable Jackie Gleason version (done before Woody had the clout to insist on filming it himself). TV regulars Michael J. Fox and Mayim Bialik play to their strengths (although I would have preferred Cusack and Danes, or other Woody regulars - I can't imagine these two were his first choice), and Allen and Kavner pick up where Oedipus Wrecks lets off. Not fantastic, but what do you want? It's TV.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Don't Drink The Water!" is not a comedy classic, it suffers from some staginess (which is to be expected, being based on a stage play and all), and some comic ideas don't come off at all (like the guy who gets hit on the head with a brick and starts thinking he is two people). But if you have a preference, as many do, for Woody Allen's "early, funny films" (personally, I can find things to appreciate in all of his career phases), this later one is probably as close as you're gonna get to them. Limiting his usual philosophizing about life, death, God and the universe to a bare minimum (though he still comes up with one of his simplest but wisest insights about the universe: "it's a rough place, but if you have someone to share it with, it gets easier"), Woody basically concentrates on firing off one-liners at such a rapid-fire speed that you may have to watch the film a second time to catch them all. And his great lines in this film are too numerous to count ("I heard, he has an idea. You'll find me at the fallout shelter"!). Julie Kavner is one of the most compatible female screen partners for Woody, and there is genuine sweetness in the budding romance between Michael J. Fox and Mayim Bialik; Dom De Luise's contributions are more a matter of taste. *** out of 4.
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