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Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis (2011)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary  -  17 December 2011 (USA)
7.1
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Reviews: 6 user | 7 critic

With Jerry Lewis (1926- )as executive producer, this is in essence an autobiography. It follows his career chronologically from the 10-year partnership with Dean Martin to Lewis's career as... See full summary »

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Title: Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis (TV Movie 2011)

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With Jerry Lewis (1926- )as executive producer, this is in essence an autobiography. It follows his career chronologically from the 10-year partnership with Dean Martin to Lewis's career as writer, producer, director, and actor in a series of Paramount pictures. The chronology is told through archival clips, comments by family members and Hollywood friends, comments from Lewis himself, and clips of him in a contemporary nightclub appearance. Lewis vows to live longer than George Burns. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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17 December 2011 (USA)  »

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Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis  »

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Jerry Me Lewis
4 April 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

According to his various celebrity fans whose adulatory comments proliferate this (auto)biographical documentary, Jerry Lewis is apparently on the same level of comedic genius as Chaplin or Keaton. Unsurprisingly most if not all of his acolytes are American, including the likes of Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld to name but three, but perhaps not being American and missing out on the attendant comic books, cartoon shows, TV specials and telethons which kept him in the public eye Stateside, I don't think his star is considered quite as bright here in Britain. Me, I don't see him as being too much above Lou Costello or Britain's Norman Wisdom in comedic terms and the more his super-fans praised him up, the more resistant I found myself to agreeing with them.

Mind you, there's a bigger Lewis fan here than all of his celebrity friends put together and that's Lewis himself. Jerry tells one apocryphal-sounding story after another about how he saved Paramount Movies from extinction in the 60's, analysing his own "genius" (my quotation marks) and generally having us believe that he was a wonderful, kind, generous man from first to last who knew every member of his cast and crew by name. Note to self, Jerry, there's no honour in self-praise and for good measure he constantly name drops, boasting about his supposed influence on Spielberg, Lucas and Scorcese, even as I have to admit the first of the three is fulsome in his on-screen praise of Lewis here.

All that said, there are some lovely comic sequences from his movies but hyperbole still gets in the way - at one point an admirer swoons about Jerry making a car act funny, which the clip just doesn't back up. Of course in this revisionist story, Jerry and Dean amicably broke up and never stopped loving each other, their reunion at the behest of Frank Sinatra during a 1976 Lewis telethon is especially embarrassing with Martin so smashed drunk, he could have been making up with Jerry Lee Lewis and not notice.

Interspersing the story with snippets from a live Lewis in-person modern-day variety performance only shows that cinema was his best medium, although it hardly seems to matter to his sycophantic fans.

I get that Lewis was a big deal in the States and yes, in France too if it means that much to him, but this two hour long special, significantly co-produced by its star lacked a necessary distance and critical point of view and in the end seemed like one long version of "For I'm a jolly good fellow".


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