Unbeatable Harold

Reviewed By Katharine Leis
Posted 03/30/06 02:58:03

"Heart and Soul on Celluloid"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

The best way to see Unbeatable Harold is with no expectations. It is a collection of many things; romance, comedy, satire, drama, and even a music video dream sequence. No sole description would do it justice, but all of the above comprise this endearing film.

The opening of Unbeatable Harold has our hero Harold (Gordon Michaels) cruising through Reno, Nevada on a busy, neon filled night. Full of spirit and not much else, his evening takes him eventually to the penny slots. Low expectations and even lower rewards await...

Enter Wanda Livingston (Nicole DeHuff)… the unfortunate, beautiful girlfriend of Jake Salamander (an almost unrecognizable Dylan McDermott). He’s a leftover 80s rockstar-type who plays shows at small hotel venues such as “The Silver Legacy.” He’s convinced that he is just days away from near idol status, and probably has been for the past 15 years. His super-ego is matched only by his even more super-infidelity. Salamander’s sidekick Slinky McNulty (Robert Peters) plays a deadpan as best as there’s been in decades.

Exit Wanda Livingston straight down the freeway until she runs out of gas. Fate assists and Harold is soon there to help.

Harold is the assistant manager of the Wagon Train Steakhouse, a busy casual restaurant managed by Fullerton (Henry Winkler). Fullerton, sharp and slick, believes he knows the way things ought to be and sees Harold as his protégé. The chemistry between Henry Winkler and Gordon Michaels was incredible. Their scenes provided most of the laugh-out-loud moments…well, those and the entire music video of “Harold Has Arrived.”

Harold is and does his best in all ways and all things. Though from the outside, it doesn’t seem to add up to a whole lot, he does manage to always make things better…if even just a tiny bit.

Sometimes the fun of a movie isn’t any particular scene or storyline, but the way it makes you feel. All of the characters in Unbeatable Harold could be called losers, but they all have something that keeps them going…hope.

Whether it was the girlfriend who gives her undeserving boyfriend ONE more try, the waitress at the diner who holds on to her one claim to fame, or the assistant manager who puts on his best suit, gets the best present and room he can for his girlfriend, or any of the myriad of other characters, they all found reasons to keep going.

Fantastic smaller roles were played by Taryn Manning, Gladys Knight, and Charles Durning.

So many films these days are out to send a powerful message or try to make audiences shriek at their gross-out humor. They forget that many people go to the theater to be entertained. To escape for an hour or two into a different world and then leave feeling good about themselves…about life. Unbeatable Harold accomplished all that and then some. It was fun, different yet familiar, unassuming and endearing all at once.

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