Friday, February 5, 2010

Television Review: HAPPY (1983, Lee Philips)

Stars: 4.1 of 5.
Running Time: 96 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Dom DeLuise, Henry Silva, Dee Wallace, Jack Gilford, David DeLuise, Carol Arthur DeLuise, Peter DeLuise, Michael DeLuise. Executive Producer Dom DeLuise.
Tag-line: "A suspense thriller!"
Best one-liner: "This is me– I'm a clown called Happy."

"Who's gonna make ya smile?" -"Happy!" "Who's gonna make ya laugh?" -"Happy!" "What's my name?" HAPPY. Give Dom Deluise's tender paunch a big 'ole bear hug and hold on tight as you're transported into a world of endless, lighthearted delights, courtesy of Executive Producer Dom (and it's a family affair- his wife and three kids are all involved). Dom plays 'Happy,' the eponymous, washed-up clown who once had a TV show, but now entertains children for sometimes four hours at a time at shoe store openings ("We were only booked for 2!").

The autograph hounds want Happy to sign everything from a tamborine (center) to a Bible (right)! Not sure why there's so many autograph seekers given that his show's been off the air for five years. And I think it was a local show, too.

A holdover from an older, more versatile performer's era (song, dance, puppetry, magic, vaudeville etc.), Dom's natural buoyancy is infectious, and he never turns it off- he NEVER turns it off! His life is one big euphoric stream of consciousness and we're just along for the ride. Also, I gotta say that I've never seen so much confetti in my life. Dom's even flingin' it in patron's drinks!

What do you suppose the odds are that this is the freeze frame that ends the movie? Well the odds are very high, because this IS the freeze frame that ends the movie.

We get to see Dom dressed up in his Chef duds (but he spends 90% of the film, inexplicably at times, in his clown suit);

Jack Gilford doing his impersonation of pea soup coming to a boil (with croutons!);

Jack Gilford- Happy's manager, partner, and best bud- operates Doofer the Rat and the poor man's Madam.

and an awkward, burgeoning romance with sculptor/waitress Dee Wallace (E.T., CRITTERS).

Everything is fine and dandy– until an opera-luvin' Henry Silva, in BLACKFACE,

blows away half of Happy's audience, his manager, and an unlucky chandelier.

The cops are looking for a black man, and Happy's the only one to contradict them ("I know makeup- I've been doin' it for 20 years!").

As a side note- they even refer to him as Happy in court and on the record:

"Well, Happy, while you haven't quite earned the keys to the city, or even Burt's TransAm, you have earned the right to lean on Sharky's Machine for exactly fifteen minutes."

So anyway, Happy begins a one-man crusade to bring the leather-clad Silva to justice, and it all begins with his sculptin' gal Dee making a PUPPET BUST OF SILVA as per Happy's eyewitness account.

I desperately need one of these for my bureau.


This leads to an enchanting game of cat and mouse (Dom flicks on a flashlight to reveal his clown face in the darkness– "Hey MISTAH KILLLLAH!")


which leads to a TV studio showdown because Happy got his old show back and there's a piano-playing rabbit who keeps turning around incredulously and a guy in the chicken costume from STROKER ACE and the cops are en route because "The clown was right- I don't believe it!" and the kids are getting impatient and the rest of the cast can only ad-lib for so long and Silva wrestles Happy in an epic backstage brawl and there's a switchblade

and Happy flings confetti into Silva's eyes and a player piano is playing and Happy whaps Silva with an enormous pencil prop and the show must go on and THE SHOW MUST GO ON! and, by God, this is fucking fantastic! Dom– you've done it again. You've gone and made me HAPPY! Even Silva is smiling.

Wait, why is Silva smiling?! And why didn't he blast Happy when he had the chance? Wait a minute... could it be– could this take place in the same universe as CANNONBALL RUN II? Could Silva be playing the same mobster he plays in CANNONBALL RUN II?

Does this mean that his shadowy boss, Don Canneloni (played by DeLuise):

is Happy's twin brother, hence the knowing smile?! Holy shit!

And there ya have it, folks: incontrovertible evidence that watching CANNONBALL RUN II could add an entire new dimension of meaning to your life- or at least your HAPPY experience- and why should the two be mutually exclusive?

-Sean Gill


Ivan said...

This sounds SO bonkers! Gotta see it!

Sean Gill said...

Despite being a huge DeLuise and Silva fan, I had never even HEARD of this until last week. It's available on Netflix- and it has DeLuise family audio commentary (!) which I haven't yet had the pleasure of listening to...