[15 January 2008]
For whatever reason, many comedians have an overwhelming need to show off their serious sides. Just ask Woody Allen. And while Steve Martin has not become nearly as serious as Allen, his latter films feature far more depth than, say, The Jerk. But then again, in Martin’s first films he was basically playing Steve Martin the comedian.
But as he gained confidence, we began to see Martin the actor revealing himself more and more. Unlike Jerry Seinfeld, who will always play himself, Martin is a fine actor and this The Steve Martin Triple Feature Collection (L.A. Story / All of Me / Novocaine) includes essential pieces in Martin’s cinematic evolution.
L.A. Story is the best of these three films. But as an L.A. guy, maybe I’m just a little biased about it. I get most of the jokes —which are mostly still relevant these 17 years later – because I live the L.A. life, for whatever that’s worth. It’s the little things that ring so true, like when Martin’s character Harris K. Telemacher drives his car a few houses up the street to visit a friend.
Telemacher is a wacky weatherman, and much like Martin in real life, he wants to be taken more seriously. Granted, the story is a little contrived, about a talking freeway sign that gives out philosophical advice. But with scenes like one where Telemacher tapes a sunny weather forecast in advance, only to have it rain cats and dogs on the day of his forecast, makes it a movie well worth watching.
Carl Reiner directed All of Me, just as he directed many of Martin’s earlier films. And this one doesn’t carry the same social commentary as did L.A. Story. But what it lacked in sardonic wit, it more than made up for with great physical comedy. Lily Tomlin plays Edwina, a woman near death who hires a spiritual guru to transport her soul into a younger woman’s body. But Edwina inhabits Roger Cobb’s body, played by Martin, instead.
This mistake allows Martin to play two-roles-in-one; creating his own character’s movements, in addition to Tomlin’s. For a hilarious example, one early scene finds Martin having to visit the restroom It is there that Edwina gets hands on training – pun intended—in peeing at a urinal.
The last film in this set, Novocaine, features Martin playing a dentist, Dr. Frank Sangster. This is intended to be a comedy, but it’s so darn dark, I didn’t laugh. Basically, Sangster gets mixed up with a drug-abusing hottie who robs him and gets him mixed up in her life of crime. But rather than laughing at Sangster’s dire circumstances, I found myself cringing and feeling sorry for him, instead. Yes Virginia, there are stories just too dark for comedy.
Only the Novocaine DVD contains any special features. It has extra featurettes, deleted scenes, film music, trailers, production notes, and a cast & crew section. It’s too bad nothing new was added to
and All of Me. I’ll bet those were a hoot to make, and it’d be a treat to hear, say, Reiner and Martin’s commentary on All of Me.
That fairytale about the three bears is an apt analogy for this three film set: All of Me can be a little too silly, Novocaine is far too serious, but L.A. Story is just right. In fact, L.A. Story might just be ripe for a sequel. After all, Los Angeles residents find new ways to be dumb, nearly every day of the week.
Although I don’t think anything more can be squeezed out of All of Me, a re-pairing of Martin and Tomlin is a comedic combination that I’d pay to see again. But as for Novocaine, well, there are dental visits in my past I never want to relive again. Therefore, it’s a film – and a film subject—best forgotten all together.