WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS (but not really - keep reading). Ahhh, there are so many reasons to become utterly addicted to this spoof gem that I won't have room to list them all. The opening credits set the playful scene with kitsch late 1950s cartoon stills; an enchanting Peres 'Prez' Prado mambo theme which appears to be curiously uncredited (but his grunts are unmistakable, and no-one else did them); and with familiar cast names, including Kathy Najimi a full year before she hit with Sister Acts 1 & 2 plus Teri Hatcher from TV's Superman.
Every scene is imbued with shallow injustices flung at various actors, actresses and producers in daytime TV. Peeking behind the careers of these people is all just an excuse for an old-fashioned, delicious farce. Robert Harling penned this riotous spoof that plays like an issue of MAD Magazine, but feels like a gift to us in the audience. Some of the cliched characters are a bit dim, but everyone is drizzling with high jealousy, especially against Celeste Talbert (Sally Field) who is the show's perennial award-winning lead, nicknamed "America's Sweetheart". The daytime Emmies-like awards opening does introduce us to Celeste's show, The Sun Also Sets. Against all vain fears to the contrary, Celeste wins again. She is overjoyed, because it's always "such a genuine thrill": "Adam, did you watch? I won! Well, nguh..." The reason for Adam's absence soon becomes the justification for the entire plot, and we're instantly off on a trip with Celeste's neuroses. She cries, screeches, and wrings her hands though the rest of the movie while her dresser Tawnee (Kathy Najimi, constantly waddling after Celeste, unseen through Celeste's fog of paranoia) indulges a taste for Tammy Faye Baker, for which Tawnee had been in fact specifically hired.
Rosie Schwartz (Whoopi Goldberg) has seen it all before. She is the head writer of the show, and she and Celeste have been excellent support networks to each other for 15 years. So when Celeste freaks, Rosie offers to write her off the show for six months: "We'll just say that Maggie went to visit with the Dalai Lama." But Celeste has doubts: "I thought that the Dalai Lama moved to LA." "-Well, then, some other lama, Fernando Lamas, come on!". Such a skewering line must be rather affronting to still living beefcake actor Lorenzo Lamas, son of aforementioned Fernando Lamas (d. 1982).
Those who can remember the economics teacher (Ben Stein) in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) as he deadeningly calls the roll ("Bueller. Bueller. Bueller"), will take secret pleasure from seeing him again as a nitwit writer. Other well hidden member of the cast include Garry Marshall (in real life Mr Happy Days and brother of Penny), who "gets paid $1.2 million to make the command decisions" on The Sun Also Sets - he says he definitely likes "peppy and cheap"; and Carrie Fisher as Betsy Faye Sharon, who's "a bitch".
Geoffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline) is the "yummy-with-a-spoon" (and he is, by the way) dinner theater actor now rescued from his Hell by David Seaton Barnes (Robert Downey Jr), and brought back to the same show he was canned from 20 years earlier. Of course this presents some logical challenges for the current scriptwriters because his character, Rod Randall, was supposed to have been decapitated all those years ago. Somehow they work out the logical difficulties, and Geoffrey Anderson steps off the choo-choo.
Celeste can now only get worse, and her trick of going across the Washington bridge no longer helps. First, her hands shake as she tries to put on mascara, but she soon degenerates into a stalker. Unfortunately, she cannot get rid of Geoffrey Anderson so easily. Geoffrey's been promised development of his one-man play about Hamlet, and he means to hold the producer to that promise. "I'm not going back to Florida no-how!", argues Geoffrey. "You try playing Willie Loman in front of a bunch of old farts eating meatloaf !" And indeed, seeing Geoffrey's dinner theater lifestyle amongst all the hocking and accidents is hilarious. Back in Florida in his Willie Loman fat suit in his room, Geoffrey Anderson used to chafe at being called to stage as "Mr Loman". He was forced to splat whatever cockroaches crawled across his TV with a shoe, and to use pliers instead of the broken analog channel changer. Now he find himself as the yummy surgeon dating Laurie Craven, the show's new ingenue; so he's not leaving.
Beautiful Elizabeth Shue (as Laurie) rounds out the amazing ensemble cast who all do the fantastic job of those who know the stereotypes all too well. But, of course, the course to true love never did run smoothly. Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty) is getting impatient waiting for her star to rise, and is getting desperate for some publicity.
Will her plots finally succeed? Will Celeste settle her nerves, or will she kill Tawnee first? Will the producer get Mr Fuzzy? -You'll just have to watch * the second half * of this utterly lovable, farcically malicious riot.
And you'll really have to see to believe how the short-sighted Geoffrey reads his lines without glasses live off the TelePrompter. If you are not in stitches with stomach-heaving laughter and tears pouring down your face, feel free to demand your money back for the video rental. Soapdish (1991) is an unmissable gem that you will need to see again and again, because it's not often that a movie can deliver so amply with so many hilarious lines. This is very well-crafted humor, almost all of it in the writing. A draw with Blazing Saddles (1974) for uproarious apoplexy value, although otherwise dissimilar. Watch it and weep. A happy source for anyone's video addiction. 10 out of 10.
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