Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Jack 'n Juliet are barely funny

Cleveland Press February 9, 1973

"Avanti" was first an unsuccessful Broadway play by Samuel Taylor. Writer-director Billy Wilder and partner I.A.L. Diamond have done a complete rewrite on it, thereby transforming a bad play into a bad movie.

What should have been light, fluffy, sophisticated comedy is instead heavy handed, tasteless and sometimes nasty.

Jack Lemmon plays the part of an American businessman whose golf game is interrupted by news of his father's death in Italy.

Lemmon jets to Italy to claim the body, take care of the red tape and fly right back home for the funeral.

BUT THERE ARE complications. Pop died in an auto accident and he wasn't alone. There was woman with him.

Gradually it comes out. The old man was not sunning himself in Italy every summer for his health. The same time, the same hotel every year and the same woman -- it was a perpetual summer romance with the blessing as well as the connivance of the hotel staff headed by Clive Revill who tries to keep this from Lemmon.

Arriving at the same time as Lemmon is Juliet Mills as a plump English girl, there to claim the body of her mother.

That's right. You guessed it. And at this point anyone who has ever been to a movie should know that son and daughter will soon start behaving like father and mother in the same setting.

IN AN ATTEMPT to recall the light, sophisticated comedy of another time in the movie industry Bill Wilder has only managed to prove that he doesn't have the touch of a Lubitsch or a Cukor.

He can be very funny and satiric . "Some Like It Hot," "Irma La Douce," "Fortune Cookie" or he can strike out all the way -- "Kiss Me, Stupid."

In "Avanti" he is better with a funny line than with a funny situation. Corpses are stolen and recovered; a black-mailing hotel servant pops up and there is even a case of murder.

Even the best of this type of movie would be difficult to sustain for 144 minutes. This one is impossible.

IT IS UNFORTUNATE because Wilder had a lot going for him. Few directors can use locales as well as Wilder and he has captured all - the beauty of the Isle of Ischia off the Italian coast. Couple that with some evocative background music and you will want to grab your passport and fly away.

Wilder gets good performances from his principals, Lemmon even able to over come the ugly American portrait. Miss Mills -- width 30 pounds added for the role -- manages to blossom in her part. Clive Revill has some hilarious moments as the hotel manager.

The rest of the cast engages in the sort of stereotype Italian gesturing that recalls another era in movie making.

FACED WITH an impossible task Wilder does what most desperate directors would do. He has Miss Mills remove her clothes.

But more desperate than most, he goes further. He has Lemmon undress, too.

Miss Mills, si.

Jack Lemmon, no. .

No, no, no.