The World's Greatest Lover (1977)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Farce, Showbiz Comedy  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

Under the right circumstances, few cinematic comedians can be as funny as Gene Wilder; unfortunately, circumstances are far from right in The World's Greatest Lover, the 1977 film that finds Wilder wearing far too many hats as star, writer, director and producer. A worthy collaborator in the writing (or, preferably, in the writing and directing) departments would likely have made Lover a quite enjoyable comedy. But left totally to his own devices, Wilder doesn't really know what to do. The screenplay at one moment is obsessed with shuffling in some gags for their own sake and the next with maniacally getting back to the story at hand. This in itself would not be so bad if the stand-alone gags were truly funny. Regrettably, the majority of "bits" in Lover fall flat, making for some fairly dull stretches. Equally problematic is the fact that the "story" sections of Lover are no great shakes either. The premise wears thin rather quickly, and the Annie-Rudy story just isn't compelling enough, despite a very good and at times inspired performance by Carol Kane. As an actor, Wilder is still very watchable here, but he doesn't find the variety in his performance that would it needs. He's too often loud and shrill, which Wilder does very well; but wild and shrill works better when it's contrasted with quieter, calmer moments. The supporting cast is filled with comic talents of a wide range, and they help; also of note is the impressive look of the film, and Wilder the director does do a fine job of capturing the atmosphere of 1920s Hollywood. These assets don't save Lover, but they do deserve recognition.