Visit to a Small Planet (1960)

Genres - Comedy, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Satire  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Casting Jerry Lewis as an alien from another planet is not the worst idea, but it doesn't work in Visit to a Small Planet. That's because Visit wasn't originally a Lewis vehicle, but a Gore Vidal stage play that satirically lambasted the McCarthy era. It's easy to see what went wrong: Lewis is not right for the kind of play Vidal wrote, so screenwriters Edmund Belson and Henry Garson adapted the play to better fit the star's talents. But this wasn't a case where it could simply be "adapted;" in order to really work for Lewis, an entirely new work should have been devised. One wasn't, and so Visit falls between two stools, not satisfying as a Lewis laughfest and not satisfying as a Vidal satire. And, to add to the problems, Visit is remarkably dull. Oh, there are a few laughs along the way, especially in the beatnik sequence (which, significantly, was created just for the film); but there's not really much more that's genuinely amusing, even for diehard Lewis fans. The black-and-white cinematography doesn't help, either; this is a piece that cries out for color and feels hemmed in by not having it. Norman Taurog's direction is uneven, sluggish in places and lightning quick in others. For his part, Lewis does find more variety in his performance than he frequently does; it's a shame his efforts weren't in the service of a better film.