review for Jack on AllMovie

Jack (1996)
by Karl Williams review

Although some of his more humorless fans might object, there's nothing inherently wrong with director Francis Ford Coppola attempting to explore comedy. It's just that he's not very good at it, as evidenced by the heavy-handedness of Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and this misfire that only proves what a classic Big (1988) was. Make no mistake, this high-concept comedy-drama is a calculated effort to reproduce the result of that earlier mass entertainment, and the results are not pretty. That's primarily because both the director and star are better suited to drama. Coppola, as in his earlier comedy, shellacs the proceedings with a coating of sobriety and genuine heartache that's believable but deadly. The lead actor is just as much of a problem. The idea that he's a better dramatic actor than funnyman might strike many as strange, but Robin Williams' manic physical humor wore out its welcome way back in the '80s. One look at his track record will demonstrate that Williams has always been better in his dramatic roles, playing hirsute heroes bucking the establishment. Whether it's the straight man in The Birdcage (1996) or the befuddled iconoclast in Awakenings (1990), the actor is best when he's controlled, restrained, and precise. Unleashed from reality, he's a breathless menace of rapid-fire annoyance or predictable quirks as likely to produce a stink bomb of a film (Toys, Patch Adams, or Bicentennial Man, anyone?) as a hit. If Coppola and Williams teamed up for a drama, they could be a powerhouse combination, but the best thing in Jack (1996) is Bill Cosby, and that's a big problem for a feature film.