DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
HARRY & TONTO (director/writer: Paul Mazursky; screenwriter: Josh Greenfeld; cinematographer: Michael C. Butler; editor: Richard Halsey; music: Bill Conti; cast: Art Carney (Harry Coombes), Ellen Burstyn (Shirley Mallard), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Jessie Stone), Larry Hagman (Eddie Coombes), Melanie Mayron (Ginger), Herbert Berghof (Jacob Rivetowski), Michael McCleery (Mugger), Avon Long (Leroy), Rashel Novikoff (Mrs. Rothman), Phil Bruns (Burt Coombes), Cliff De Young (Burt Coombes Jr.), Joshua Mostel (Norman Coombes), Dolly Jonah (Elaine Coombes), Barbara Rhoades (Hooker), Arthur Hunnicutt (Wade Carlton), Chief Dan George (Sam Two Feathers), Cliff Norton (Used Car Dealer), Clint Young (Greyhound bus driver); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Paul Mazursky; 20th Century Fox; 1974)

"Affectionate but contrived odyssey folk tale."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The 57-year-old Art Carney plays a good-natured cranky 72-year-old searching for happiness in this affectionate but contrived odyssey folk tale. The long-time TV second banana to Jackie Gleason on the popular "The Honeymooners" won an Oscar for being such a charmer. It's directed in an episodic fashion by Paul Mazursky ("Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"/"Moscow on the Hudson"/"Blume in Love"), and is cowritten by him and Josh Greenfeld.

The Upper West Side residing Manhattanite widower and retired schoolteacher Harry Coombes (Art Carney) lives alone with his aging cat Tonto. Harry is forcefully evicted when his rundown apartment building gets demolished and he refuses to move. Harry loves the neighborhood diversity even if mugged four times during the last year and that his old-time friends are dying off. Harry's clueless oldest son Burt (Phil Bruns) finds dad in the street and insists he move into his suburban tiny private house, where he shares a room with his hippie teenage grandson Norman (Joshua Mostel). Though cared for by his loving son and tolerated by his argumentative wife (Dolly Jonah) and accepted by the two bickering grandchildren, the independent-minded Harry flies to Chicago to visit his cynical bookstore owner and four time divorced daughter Shirley Mallard (Ellen Burstyn) to see if there's a place there for him. After a spat with airline personal at the terminal over the boarding of Tonto, Harry opts for a bus. But the spoiled cat refuses to pee on the bus and Harry leaves the bus to buy a used car at a used car lot. On the road Harry picks up a talkative runaway teenager named Ginger (Melanie Mayron). The hippie girl talks Harry into stopping off at a nursing home in Indiana to visit his liberated first girlfriend Jessie (Geraldine Fitzgerald), someone not seen since they split as youths, and is surprised she has become senile and doesn't remember him. Harry then drives to Chicago despite not having a driver's license. Norman is sent by his alarmed dad to help his grandfather out, and he hooks up with free-spirit Ginger who is on her way to a commune in Boulder, Colorado. Harry splits from Chicago after not being able to make a positive connection with his bitchy but helpful daughter, and he gives Norman the car in Arizona to go off with Ginger. Thereafter Harry gets hitches to Las Vegas from a colorful health food traveling salesman (Arthur Hunnicutt) and an obliging hooker (Barbara Rhoades). Spending a night in the slammer for peeing in the Las Vegas street, outside a casino, while intoxicated, Harry meets a Native American healer (Chief Dan George) who cures his bursitis.  Harry's insurance salesman/real estate broker burn-out divorced younger son Eddie (Larry Hagman) meets him in Las Vegas and drives him to his LA swinging bachelor pad. Harry gives his broke and confused son money and chooses to live alone in sunny California, as he feels bad that all his children are not happy but believes they must find their own path in life. The city boy is rejuvenated in LaLa land and after his cross-country adventure feels he can handle anything, even the loss of his dear cat, as he goes off to live on his own in the sunny paradise and relishes the chance to start life over in his old age.

Far too cutesy, calculated and whiny for my taste. The crowd-pleasing pleasant character study of the elderly adventurer has no political edge and seemed too eager to pat itself on the back for being so tolerant, nevertheless is watchable because of Carney's endearing performance as the risk-taker who so admirably identifies with the children of oppressed parents, is tolerant of hippies, innocently can't help getting seduced by women and is a cat lover supreme.

REVIEWED ON 2/28/2012       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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