Thursday, April 9, 2015

#1,697. The Man with Two Brains (1983)

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 from the creative minds that 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 really 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 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 hits 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 fall in love and get married. The couple’s chances of wedded bliss take a nosedive, however, when, while honeymooning in Vienna, Dr. Hfuhruhurr discovers that Dolores is as promiscuous as ever. 

It’s around this time that Hfuhruhurr also meets Dr. Alfred Necessiter (David Warner), a scientist who has found a way to keep the human brain alive after it’s removed from the body. To Dr. Hfuhruhurr’s surprise, he can communicate via telepathy with one of the brains in Necessiter’s lab, that of 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 is 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 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 it funnier (the scene in which he is subjected to a lengthy - not to mention quite difficult - roadside sobriety test is unforgettable), and Turner, looking drop-dead gorgeous, does a great 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 still manages to deliver a ton of laughs.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ahhh....I haven't seen this movie in years. Like you, I saw this years ago when I was a kid, I have often thought if it held up? So reading your intro to this review hit home. Thanks, Doc. I'll be "re"-checking this one out soon.

Slasher Matt