Mr. Warmth:The Don Rickles Project

"OK"

Mr. Warmth:The Don Rickles Project Review


At the New York Film Festival screening of John Landis' Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, subversion was in the air as Landis strolled out to introduce the film and, peering into the audience, asked William Lustig, the director of Maniac Cop, to take a bow. The excitement continued when the lights dimmed and Harry Dean Stanton in the film began warbling "Old Blue" in Dan Tana's Restaurant. Landis' camera then picks up Rickles' empty dressing room at the Stardust in a series of masterly composed shots of vacant chairs and silent bric-a-brac -- Ozu in Vegas. But then banality set in.

Landis very quickly assumes the role of the Los Angeles Chapter President of The Don Rickles Fan Club. Legions of comics and actors are trotted out (much in the manner of The Aristocrats) to praise the brilliance and hilarity of the master of the comic insult. These interviews are interspersed with clips from Rickles' films -- Kelly's Heroes, Run Silent, Run Deep, The Rat Race, X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, Beach Blanket Bingo -- along with television excerpts from The Tonight Show and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. The Man Himself is interviewed and asked to comment on his life and art. Centering the whole mishmash is footage of Rickles' nightclub act at the Stardust -- an act Rickles had heretofore adamantly refused to be filmed.

Rickles is extolled as the first performance artist and the one and only insult comedian. Or course this doesn't hold water with anyone familiar with comics as divergent as Jack E. Leonard and Brother Theodore. Rickles' stock in trade is the virulently racist insult, cracks so nasty and retrograde they become hilarious due to Rickles' perfectly timed and explosive delivery (for example, his greeting of a Japanese gentleman in the Stardust audience, "I spent three years in the jungle looking for your father"). Sarah Silverman praises Rickles: "I was a small, sheltered Jewish girl from New Hampshire and when I was little and heard Don Rickles talk about blacks, Mexicans, and Asians, he did me a service because when I grew up I knew what to expect."

Rickles really hit his stride on television talk shows, where he became legendary for turning his rapier wit on pompous and blowhard celebrities and the film is larded with hilarious clips that include a The Tonight Show With Jay Leno where Rickles lacerates Scorsese and his asthma and from a Dean Martin roast where Rickles says to Martin, "Thank you, Jerry." Here is the real crux of his fame -- Rickles as the great leveler, the big shots and the lowly are all grist for ridicule.

However, Rickles has no follow-through. Jack E. Leonard would never bow or apologize, but sanctimony is part of Rickles' act. After skewering his audience, then Rickles reverses himself and resorts to the most cloying forms of letting the audience know he was only kidding, singing a mawkish tune called "I'm a Nice Guy" and even performing a tribute to Jimmy Cagney by singing "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Even his pal Bob Newhart can't take it. Newhart relates: "When I'm in the audience and I see Rickles do his Cagney tribute I think to myself, 'Well, let's see. There's a 12:15am flight and 2:00am flight.'"

Landis follows the Rickles rulebook like a toady and any extended analysis is eschewed. It isn't until the halfway mark that Landis finally explores Rickles' biography and later still for an eleven o' clock paean is to the greatness of Las Vegas under the mob. Landis doesn't buttress Rickles' shtick with anything but smoke and mirrors, and the film falls away like a cheap suit.

At the end of the screening, Landis and Rickles emerged from the wings, Landis relentlessly plugging the forthcoming DVD release of Mr. Warmth as Rickles, hunched over a conference table on the stage, called out bingo numbers. This bit of business was more inventive than anything in Mr. Warmth.

Reviewed at the 2007 New York Film Festival.

He hates you.



Mr. Warmth:The Don Rickles Project

Facts and Figures

Run time: 89 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 4th December 2007

Distributed by: Dark Horse Indie

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Larry Rickles, , ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.