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On the whole I found this documentary to be unsatisfying. I discovered
a few new insights into Jerry Lewis but not enough background
information to justify the length of this tribute piece. If you're a
hard core fan who adores his body of work then maybe this is for you.
If however you seek a warts and all look into the life of a major celeb
you may be disappointed. I became more and more irritated by the
endless accolades heaped on the man by a succession of Hollywood A and
To me this came across as more of a vanity piece than a true documentary. If that's what you're looking for, fine. Must have been a great boost to Jerry's ego.
I grew up looking forward to my weekends so that I could watch another
Jerry Lewis film at the local movie theatre which always carried 3
feature matinees comprised of a western film starring either John Wayne
or Clint Eastwood, an adventure or music film which starred either
Tarzan or Elvis and of course a comedy film that starred either Jerry
Lewis or Abbott and Costello.
What I have is nothing but such fond memories of the Jerry Lewis comedies that kept me entertained and glued to my seat as he went from one silly character to another silly character. The colorization technology was emerging and Jerry's dark blue hair was a reminder of another feature film star named Elvis Presley. For a young lad as myself I much preferred Jerry's slapstick brand of comedy to the other genre's of the 1960's and 1970's.
So it is with much regret that I was subjected to the film Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis. Jerry, why did you think you had to produce such a self serving and narcissism based film about yourself while proceeding into your 80's? What a bunch of hooey Jerry. Was there not people in your life that you looked up to that you could have referred to with humility and abstain from trying to embarrass them? Your fall out with Dean Martin is well documented and you reflect on your relationship as nothing but loving, and it would appear (from your point of view) that the break up was all Dean's fault. Again I say, what a bunch of hooey Jerry.
You may not realize it yet Jerry but your true genius is now overshadowed by your own narcissism and what you think your fans want to remember you for. I believe that had you allowed an independent producer produce your biography your millions of fans would have been provided with the true person Jerry Lewis really is. A movie star who married twice, lived a full life starring in film, producing and directing film, while raising a large family and hosting a charity telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association for decades. I hope one day to see another independent biography that explains who Jerry Lewis really was, the good, the bad, and the challenged life of Jerry Lewis.
A self serving epitaph from an 80 year old movie star was not was I was expecting from the loving and funny Jerry Lewis that has kept me entertained for the past five decades. Jerry, I own almost all of your movies and have also repurchased them in high definition Blu Ray format because you mean so much to me personally and the happy childhood memories you provided to myself and my young friends who eagerly paid our weekly allowances to view you in Technicolor.
I believe there is some humility in the real Jerry Lewis, so if you are ever in Toronto Canada and wish to share some of your personal challenges with one of your truest and loyal fans, please, please, please feel free to contact me and my wife and I will ensure you have a nice dinner and a quiet place to reveal who Jerry Lewis really is and what made him tick these past 80 plus years. I would much prefer not to be left with the image of Jerry Lewis in this biography, as I know the real Jerry Lewis gave a lot more to his fans, family, friends and to discovering the cure for Muscular Dystrophy than what we saw in Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis.
With much love and unfortunately much regret, I rate this film a 4 out of 10. Jerry, if you do accept my invitation to come to Toronto and tell us about ALL your life experiences (the good, the bad and the real challenges) you will need to leave your ego at the door, as our entrance way is only 3 feet wide, not 3 miles long.
Your loyal fan Ed Shullivan
I used to be a Jerry Lewis fan when I was in my teens and twenties (now
I'm in my sixties). Before I watched this movie yesterday, I expected
to enjoy a nice autobiography of this talented and original actor.
However, I was hugely disappointed. I was treated to an unending
display of self-praise. As if it was not enough to hear dozens of
actors and directors commenting positively about him. Jerry had to
hammer it down himself incessantly. Furthermore, if he acknowledged the
positive contributions of a few people in his life (such as his father
and Dean Martin), this was quickly followed by sarcastic remarks about
After watching this movie, I discovered a very unflattering aspect of Jerry's personality. His narcissism, which permeates the entire movie, is very hard to miss. It's very unfortunate that he chose to end his career in this manner.
If you are a die-hard fan of Jerry Lewis, this film is for you! If you
like him but don't love him, this film is also for you...but might be a
bit too much and a slight editing would probably make it more enjoyable
because it's A LOT about Jerry. If you hate him and his comedy, then I
suggest you watch anything but this! As for me, I used to be very
indifferent to him and his films. That was, until I saw him in person a
few years ago. The man was in his mid-80s (he's almost 89 now) and got
out of his wheelchair and sauntered across the stage like a man of 40.
And, during the interview of Lewis, he was on...I mean REALLY on...with
the full attention of everyone in the theater. There simply are few
raconteurs who live for the audience and light up like him...and that
is when I became a big fan. So for me, this film was great...but I know
it isn't for everyone.
Instead of the style of this documentary, I simply would have liked to have heard Lewis talk for 2 hours. Instead he talks a little, you see him perform a little, you see a few of his film clips AND you see a lot of famous adoring fans talk about him and his craft. This is very nice...but instead of hearing everyone gush over him and kiss his butt (figurative, of course)....I would have just loved to hear from him and him alone. I know he's a great man and a mega- star and I didn't need to hear all the accolades. Still, it's well worth seeing and was quite enjoyable.
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".
Jerry Lewis can Thank two things for His successful Career, Ego and
Talent. Mostly Ego, because the Talent would Never had the Limitless
Exposure without that Enormous Ego driving the Non-Stop Juggernaut that
was Jerry Lewis.
Never Tiring, always doing more and more, Stretching the Limits of Human Endurance, He always was Seeking, Experimenting, and Forever "On-Stage".
In this Vanity Piece, He once again is, at age 80+, still on that Stage of Self Aggrandizement and with the Help of Friends and Admirers He rides the Accolades like a Never-Aging Surfer forever trying to Look Young, Glowing, and "With It". Mostly He succeeds.
One tends to want to Look Away from the Screen at times when Lewis, shown at one of His Touring Live Shows, because watching someone You admire Endlessly Talking about how "Great I am" is Embarrassing. The Truth that Lewis never seemed to Understand is none of that is Necessary. The Work Speaks for itself, but Jerry can't help but Speak about Himself, always in Glowing Terms.
Anyway, if You discount most of the "Live" Footage of Jerry Lewis talking about Jerry Lewis Endlessly, the rest of the Documentary contains some Rare Stuff and has some good Movie Clips and it makes the Two Hour Show Worth a Watch.
Just be Prepared for some Cringing. Come to Think about it. Most of Jerry's Work contains perhaps an Equal Amount of Funny Entertainment and Cringe Inducements.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Veteran comic Jerry Lewis may be 85, but at an age when most of us would he happy to put our feet up and take it easy, he is still working. He regularly tours his stand up comedy show, performing 150-minute shows, and even taking questions from the appreciative audience. This hugely entertaining and fascinating documentary offers a comprehensive look at his career, which has spanned seven decades, and looks at his enduring appeal. There are plenty of clips from his films, which will please his fans and film buffs. But director Gregg Barson (who also made the documentary about Phyllis Diller Goodnight, We Love You) has also included archival footage of his early appearances with his father, who was a big influence on him. We get the picture of Lewis as a perfectionist as he rehearses for his live appearances. There is also plenty of material showing him performing with his long time comedy partner Dean Martin, which gives a taste of their anarchic and largely improvised humour. Lewis and Martin were enormously popular in their day, before Lewis went solo and became an even bigger star. Barson has also included plenty of interviews with some of his contemporaries like Carol Burnett and Carl Reiner. He commands respect from modern comics like Eddie Murphy, Jerry Stiller and Billy Crystal, who talk about his influence and his comic legacy. Directors of the calibre of Steven Spielberg and John Landis sing his praises as an innovative filmmaker with an extraordinary level of control over his own work as writer, producer and director. And there is plenty from Lewis himself, as Barson seems to have been granted unlimited access to the star. However, as Lewis himself was the executive producer of the documentary don't expect too many controversial or intensely personal revelations. It is all about his career and his comic genius on stage and screen, and borders on hagiography at times. Nonetheless, this is a must for fans. Method To The Madness Of Jerry Lewis has been another highlight of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
Yes I am a Jerry Lewis fan - I grew up in the Borscht Belt and remember
him from the days he performed at the Browns Hotel. I was a volunteer
for his Labor Day Telethon, and my grandfather told me stories of
Jerry, before he was a star, coming into my grandfather's store in
South Fallsburg, New York, jumping on the counter, tap dancing, singing
and being completely crazy!
And I am a big fan of this film. For young documentary film makers, this is a great film to enjoy and learn from. I can't give the film a higher compliment than that.
Jerry Lewis's talent is legendary, his contribution to the entertainment world and primarily the film industry continues even today. His passion, his love of craft, his desire to learn, study and make it better, his love of nurturing young talent and sharing his knowledge and experience is astounding, admirable and hats of to this amazing man.
I can't wait for the film to be available on DVD so that I can share it with my friends and family.
Thank you Jerry Lewis. You make this world a better place. And the film is a great piece of work. Thank you!
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