Thursday, December 6, 2007

What's So Funny About a Hockey Puck?

I guess I’m in the same club as Chris Rock, Marty Scorsese, Penn Jillette, Sarah Silverman, and even Harry (hipper-than-thou) Dean Stanton in looking at old school comedian Don Rickles as part guilty pleasure, part hilarious bastard. Those are some of the talking heads assembled in John Landis’ brand new HBO portrait, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project. Problem is a good subject does not necessarily make a good documentary. Landis film is part typical clip history, part oral history, a touch of the subject’s own reminiscences, with a large portion devoted to excerpts from a recent Vegas performance, something that really should have just been released separately. The talking heads provide very little insight; some even opting for shtick over substance, and Landis over relies on Tonight Show footage and neglects to show a bit more of the Rickles acting career, which he forged in TV( the doc quickly spins past a series of b&w publicity stills showing Rickles all over the sitcoms of the 60's-from The Munsters to Andy Griffith) and B films, until he hit it big as a stand-up under the protective glow of Frank Sinatra. Check this out (not in the doc) for truly gonzo television.

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