This is an odd film.
It marks the first pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, although Pryor is absent for about the first two thirds of the movie. Its plot is very strange, starting on a moving train, then moving to a rural setting, and then somehow moving back to the train, then back off, then on again, all while the train is making one trip across the country, which seems structurally bizarre to me. The genre of the film is kind of a mix, with plenty of comedy (particularly buddy comedy), a fair amount of romance, and a lot of elements of gangster and espionage movies. The characters and their dynamics seem kind of strange too, but each performer works well for the role he/she is given. It has its moments that feel kind of forced, and others that feel uncomfortable (if only politically), but overall, I understand why it made its way onto AFI’s “Funniest Movies” list. There were times when I hoped the plot would go in a particular direction I’d imagined only to be disappointed as the film went a more boring route, but this is a fun film that balances a thriller plot with killer comedy very well, making for an enjoyable experience. It’s nothing brilliant – I’m actually struggling to write this review because I’ve forgotten so many of the details of the film – but it’s good.
Oh, and it gets bonus points for a solid score by Henry Mancini and nice contributions from Richard Kiel (James Bond’s “Jaws”) and Scatman Crothers.