This movie, along with "The Producers", paved the way for all the extreme vulgarity we see in comedies today. Try not to hate it just because of that.I heard of this movie long before I actually saw it. The legend of "Where's Poppa" was known to me only in whispered rumblings, as a really, REALLY sick movie. Of course, because I worked in a lousy video store, we didn't have a copy of it (other movies announced as "missing" from our store included Princess Bride, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Chicks Who Take on Guys with 2 Dicks - I think my co-worker grabbed that one). So when it came on TV, one late night, I settled back and watched. Of course, nowadays, it lacks a lot of the shock value it had originally (watching Tom Green masturbate an elephant tends to desensitize a person), but it's still darn funny and entertaining.
"Carl Reiner's sick masterpiece remains timeless."
Gordon (George Segal) is slowly going crazy, as his mother (Ruth Gordon) is growing more and more senile, and destroying Gordon's life along the way. Because he promised his father on his deathbed that he would never put her into a home, he has fallen into the routine of trying to scare her to death (in the opening scene, he wakes her up by dressing up in an ape costume and jumping on her) so that he can be free. Suddenly, he falls head over heels in love with the nurse he has hired to watch after her (Trish Van Devere). But, of course, there are...complications. Mother doesn't like to share.
"Where's Poppa" doesn't do much to sustain a consistent narrative; it's largely just a series of set pieces, as Momma does something crazy and Gordon slowly loses what's left of his sanity. These are balanced with a series of court vignettes as Gordon attempts to defend various nutcakes in court (including director's son Rob Reiner in a pre-"All in the Family" appearance) and scenes where Gordon's brother Sidney (Ron Leibman) gets repeatedly mugged by Garrett Morris. This movie is a collection of moments. Oh, but how those moments do linger. The nurse's honeymoon horror story remains the hardest I've ever laughed in my life. On top of that, there are certain editions of the video which contain the original ending, which was later excised by Reiner for being TOO sick. It's worth looking out for.
This was a rather notable departure for Carl Reiner, who had previously been known as Mel Brooks' straight man in the 2000 year-old man skits and as Dick Van Dyke's tyrannical boss. He never really touched this level of depravity again (although his movies with Steve Martin were brilliant in their own right), and while Mel Brooks kept going back to the same well to the point of exhaustion, this was very much a one-shot deal for Reiner. It's unfortunate, as he showed a real knack for it. The writer, Robert Klane, had an even sorrier fate: He went on to write "National Lampoon's European Vacation" and direct "Weekend at Bernie's II". May his soul burn in hell.
But again, in today's world, it's all rather tame. Even though it never really gets the credit it deserves (it usually gets passed over in favor of "Blazing Saddles" when people speak of the genre), it's clear the impact this film had on modern comedy as we know it. It holds up, too; although some of the Vietnam references are tired, it can still put a smile on my face, and it still has the ability, even after all these years, to earn laughter out of shock and surprise, as you can't believe how far this movie goes. I sincerely doubt they'll be able to say that about "Tomcats" thirty years from now.Worth renting, just for the "Tushie" scene.
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originally posted: 07/02/02 23:52:49