Directed By: Carl Reiner
Starring: Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, David Warner
Tag line: "So funny you'll laugh your head off"
Trivia: In 1987, DC Comics created a Superman villain named Hfuhruhurr after Martin's character in this movie
The last time I saw The Man with Two Brains, a 1983 comedy by the people who brought us The Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, I thought it was absolutely hilarious. Of course, that was 30 years ago, so as I sat down to watch it again, I found myself wondering if it was as funny as I remembered. Would I still laugh at all the pratfalls, sight gags, and double entendres (the humor, as I recall, was a bit on the broad side)? More to the point: was the film ever as uproarious as I remember it being?
The answer to both of these questions is a resounding “yes”!
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin), the world’s most brilliant brain surgeon, puts his talents to the test when he accidentally runs over Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner), a gorgeous but mean-spirited gold-digger, with his car. Thanks to Dr. Hfuhruhurr’s steady hands, Dolores survives the ordeal, and before long the two, who have fallen in love with each other, are husband and wife. The couple’s chances at wedded bliss take a nosedive, however, when, while on their honeymoon in Vienna, Dr. Hfuhruhurr discovers Dolores is just as promiscuous now as she was before they were married. It’s around this time that Hfuhruhurr meets Dr. Alfred Necessiter (David Warner), a scientist who’s found a way to keep the human brain alive after it’s been removed from its body. To Dr. Hfuhruhurr’s surprise, he can communicate via telepathy with one of the brains in Necessiter’s lab, which once belonged to a woman named Anne Uumellmahaye (voiced by an uncredited Sissy Spacek). Over time, Dr. Hfuhruhurr develops feelings for Anne’s brain, but things get a bit complicated when Dolores begs him for another chance. Will Hfuhruhurr reconcile with the stunningly beautiful Dolores, or will he instead decide to take advantage of Dr. Necessiter’s research, which has proven it’s possible to transfer a brain’s thoughts and memories into the body of another person?
Much like Airplane!, the laughs in The Man with Two Brains come fast and furious, thrown at us at a rate of about half a dozen per minute. The good doctor’s inflated opinion of himself is a source of comedy early on (when being interviewed for an upcoming article, he asks the reporter to read back the last statement he made, to make sure it doesn’t sound too pompous. “My brilliant research in brain transplantation is unsurpassed, and will probably make my name live beyond eternity”, the reporter says, reading from his notes. “No, that’s all right”, is Dr. Hfuhruhurr’s impassive response). I also found myself snickering at one of the love poems Hfuhruhurr reads to Dolores to try and win her heart, a brief little piece titled “Pointy Birds” (“O pointy birds, o pointy pointy, anoint my head, anointy-nointy”).
Despite the insanity of it all, Steve Martin remains deadly serious throughout The Man with Two Brains, which only makes him funnier (the scene in which he’s administered a lengthy, not to mention quite difficult, roadside sobriety test is unforgettable), and Turner, looking drop-dead gorgeous, does a good job lampooning the femme fatale persona she perfected in Lawrence Kasdan’s Body Heat, released two years before this movie. Some of the sillier jokes do fall flat (a late scene, in which Martin is thrown around a room that looks like a giant pinball machine, never worked for me), but even with its handful of duds, The Man with Two Brains delivers a ton of laughs.