In World War II, a strategic Italian village agrees to surrender to the Allies only if it's allowed to organize a celebratory festival while giving aerial reconnaissance the false impression of fierce ground fighting.
Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke were so brilliant together in 'Mary Poppins' (in spite of his wretched faux-Cockney accent) that it's a shame they don't recapture that chemistry here. This very weak variety special is directed by Andrews's long-time husband Blake Edwards. Despite their long happy marriage, Andrews and Edwards have done their best work separately: Edwards has made some brilliant films -- including 'The Great Race', one of my all-time favourite comedies -- but he's never done a good job of directing Julie Andrews, and she always comes off as lacklustre under his direction.
London's Covent Garden district (on the site of a long-ago convent, hence its name) has a deep and rich history, being for many decades the site of an open market specialising in produce and flowers. Alfred Hitchcock's father, a poulterer, maintained a stall in Covent Garden Market, and Hitchcock set much of his film 'Frenzy' there, filming in authentic locations. More recently, Covent Garden has been a centre for opera and high culture. George Bernard Shaw knew what he was doing when he set the opening scene of 'Pygmalion' in Covent Garden: a natural place for Londoners of the upper and the lower classes to cross paths.
It's a shame that almost none of that atmosphere is conveyed in 'Julie and Dick at Covent Garden', which appears to have been filmed on indoor sets with rather obvious actors substituting for authentic stallmen. Dick Van Dyke is nearly bowled over by a barrow boy who tells him 'Mind your plates!' This prompts Julie Andrews to give Van Dyke a lesson in Cockney rhyming-slang: 'plates' (short for 'plates of meat') is slang for 'feet', and so forth.
Eventually, Julie and Dick meet the Ghost of Drury Lane, who has somehow arrived in Covent Garden. This 'ghost' is played by Carl Reiner, kitted out in elaborate Elizabethan garb with a peccadillo ruff. There's some very unimpressive trick photography as Reiner passes through a solid wall, and Andrews puts her hand through his ghostly body. Then, for no discernible reason, all three of them sing 'Consider Yourself' from 'Oliver!', marching in place, with Reiner looking utterly ridiculous in his Shakespearean cozzy alongside Andrews and Van Dyke in normal clothing.
But then it gets worse. Julie tells Dick about Britain's tradition of pantomime comedies, in which the male hero (the 'principal boy') is played by a woman in tight-fitting trousers, while the 'dame' is played by a male comedian in drag. This is the cue for a painfully bad tab-show version of 'Cinderella', in which Andrews plays the dual role of Cinderella and Prince Charming, with some very clumsy editing for the scene in which the male Julie Andrews kisses the female Julie Andrews. Even worse is the depiction of the Ugly Stepsisters, played by Van Dyke and Reiner in horrible drag, with elaborate Marie Antoinette wigs and polonaise gowns. Oh, blimey! It's a shame that these talented performers got stuck doing this rubbish. I'll rate it just one point out of 10.
3 of 9 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?