Frank is the best Frank that’s ever happened to me.
There are a few master craftsmen in the world of film direction that are rarely recognized as such, making for cranky rants from snobby movie buffs like me. Generally, if a filmmaker is good at getting good reviews, and has done some memorable work, people associate his or her name with his/her film-making. Frank Oz, on the other hand, has had quite the career as a director, and yet this is largely overshadowed by his time spent as a Muppet performer back in the day. Seeing as how I am one of the geeky “Hensonites” who just adores the various skills that Frank has, it is important to me that people appreciate both his work as a puppeteer and as a director. So, I’m adding his to my Missionary List – the list of movies I promise to spread the word about at any opportunity like a missionary shares the gospel – where it will join the ranks of other underrated triumphs like Phantom of the Paradise, The Twelve Chairs, Play It Again, Sam, and even the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup.
This is one of those movies that is done in such a careful way, with such remarkable precision, that the knowledgeable spectator will be constantly aware that he/she is watching a master at work. It’s special when a film carries an aura of craftsmanship that is always present, but never too disruptive of the feelings that the spectator is supposed to be experiencing. The jokes, overall, do work well, even though I think that the same screenplay – perhaps eve with the same cast – could have made for a mediocre movie. Heck, it would even be easy to hate the main character for being so sleazy. Frank seems to be the element that makes everything about the film work the way it’s meant to, from the pacing to the mood.
While it’s not necessarily the funniest film I’ve ever watched, it has a number of very strong comedic moments, and is pleasant and fun throughout. The performances from Steve Martin and Eddy Murphy are some of their best, and the story is written very cleverly with a smart resolution and satisfying ending. It also has the benefit of being both a good movie on first-viewing and a good “Hindsight Movie” – a film that becomes more enjoyable when thinking about it in retrospect, or when watching it again. I suspect this may not be uncommon for Oz films, since I really liked Little Shop of Horrors the first time I saw it, but over the years I have grown to obsess over it, and it has become a big part of who I am. I can’t say for sure that I’ll ever love Bowfinger on a level that’s very close to how much I love Little Shop, but I can say that this is a movie I’ll happily sit down and watch again with whoever would be willing to join me.
If anyone is ever in need of a fun comedy film for movie night, this is one of my top recommendations.