Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Roxanne

Time to go Fishing in the Discount Bin again, as I watch and reflect upon one of the many movies I own.  This time up, it's Steve Martin's classic 1980s romantic comedy Roxanne.  This is in my notes at August 22, 2016.

Roxanne is one of those films that I just remember seeing on TV a lot when I was a kid.  Of course, I had no idea of its history as a contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac until junior high French class, when we watched it subtitled in French one day, and back-to-back with the famous 1990 French adaptation.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that was the last time I watched it.  So when I saw it in a discount bin at Giant Tiger for $5, I figured, "Why not?" 

If anything, Roxanne is a tour de force for Steve Martin.  This where Martin started to show himself as more of an artist and renaissance man of entertainment, rather than just a comedian.  He wrote the adaptation himself, and produced it, as well as starred in it.  And this is Martin's movie, as he has given himself most of the best lines and the best gags.

A quick refresher for those who've never seen or heard of Cyrano de Bergerac.  Cyrano is a famous French soldier and poet, but he is blessed with a rather large nose.  While he puts on a brave face, he's actually pretty sensitive and self-conscious about it.  He's madly in love with his cousin Roxane (takes place in the 17th century, when people were cool with that), but because of his nose, he fears his love will never be returned.  In Cyrano's regiment is a new recruit named Christian.  Roxane and Christian are immediately smitten, but Christian is clueless around women and gets tongue-tied in Roxane's presence.  So, Cyrano begins writings things for Christian to say to Roxane, and writes love letters to Roxane on Christian's behalf, thus allowing him to express his feelings for Roxane.  And the usual entanglements of how long this will last and whether Roxane will realize that the words she's falling in love with are actually Cyrano's. 

In Martin's update, Cyrano de Bergerac becomes C.D. Bales, a small-town fire chief.  Roxane becomes Roxanne, a young astronomy student who's recently moved to town.  And Christian becomes Chris, a new professional firefighters that C.D. has hired to bolster his ranks. 

That's what I always remember the most when I was a kid.  C.D.'s fire department is made of some of the most comically inept firefighters ever seen on the big screen.  There's some brilliant slapstick at play as they attempt to work their equipment.  Part of the joke comes from the fact that C.D. and Chris are the only professional firefighters...the town's fire department has recently been downgraded to a volunteer fire department so the mayor could funnel more money into tourism. 

That's one of the key subplots that went over my head when I was a kid.  The legendary Fred Willard plays the town's mayor, and he's got some incredibly hair-brained schemes to boost tourism, such as adopting a cow in the hopes of making it into a "Spuds McKenzie"-type party animal mascot, and hosting an Oktoberfest in July.  It's some funny stuff. 

But yeah, it's the slapstick I mostly remember from when I was a kid.  That, and the amazing scene where C.D. bets a guy in a bar that he can come up with 20 better big nose insults than, "Hey, big nose!"

I am a little older now, and I am able to better understand what's going on in this film, but the good thing is, it's still funny.  My only complaint was Daryl Hannah as Roxanne seemed to be a little...flat.  And that score is so undeniably 1980s.  But it's still a funny film. 

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