A 1960s comedy with a cast including Dick Van Dyke, James Garner, Angie Dickinson and Elke Sommer, with writing by Carl Reiner and direction by Norman Jewison should be a heck of a lot funnier than The Art of Love turns out to be. Not that there aren't laughs, for there are, and a few of them are pretty close to belly laughs. But the laughs are spaced out too far, and the time between gets a bit difficult to endure. Part of the problem is simply that there's too much going on, and neither the writer nor the director figured out a way to organize things so that the events play off against each other rather than getting in each other's way. As a result, Art is a big muddle for most of the time. It also doesn't help that both of the leading male characters have traits that make them a bit hard to like, even with such experts as Van Dyke and Garner playing them. And the main gimmick -- an artist faking his suicide so that his paintings will be worth more -- is simply too familiar and therefore demands a more imaginative approach than it receives here. Still, the cast is very easy to take, and there's the bonus of some great Ethel Merman moments (along with some unbelievable Merman wigs). Neither cast nor the wigs can save Art, but they do make it worth a glimpse or two.
by Craig Butler review