Before watching the movie:
A blind man and a deaf man work together at a newsstand, get falsely accused of murder, and then get in trouble with criminals. Hilarious, right? That’s what all reports indicate. I can see where the humor comes in, namely that the two leads are Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. I just have no idea what direction it could go other than the nebulous “madcap.” I fear it will be madcap comedy that could be accused of terrible taste.
Also, the last time I saw a Richard Pryor movie, it was Superman III, which while not as abysmal as Superman IV, was not helped by his presence. Apparently his partnership with Wilder has a good reputation, though. Also, this film is R-Rated so he won’t have to stick to harmless family fare. What I’ve seen of his Saturday Night Live guesting is hilarious (go watch “Word Association” if you haven’t seen it).
After watching the movie:
Dave is a deaf newsstand operator, and Wally is a blind man in deep gambling debts who needs a job. Both of them try to hide their conditions. Wally applies to work for Dave, and thanks to a bar fight they discover they work well together and quickly befriend each other. Wally’s bookie, somehow mixed up in a smuggling scheme, shows up at the stand to try to meet him and drops a “rare gold coin” into their money box moments before being caught deviating from the plan and shot, the entire event happening behind Dave’s back with Wally outside. Dave saw a woman walking away, and Wally heard a shot and smelled a woman leaving, but the police find them over the body and come to the conclusion that they did it. The woman and her associate come to the jail to attempt to bail them in order to get at the gold macguffin, but Wally and Dave recognize them and escape on their own in an attempt to catch the real killers.
I suppose since I was concerned about it, I ought to comment on the disability jokes. I can’t think of any specific one I found tasteless, though I might not be surprised if someone took offense to some here and there, especially ones like the sequence when Wally leads another blind man across the street. Most of the time, if a joke is at someone’s expense, it’s the non-disabled person whom we laugh at.
As far as the performances, Wilder and Pryor seem to do a decent job not responding to their respective stimuli, although even though Dave is supposed to have gone deaf in adulthood, he still speaks much more clearly than he “should.” Pryor says a lot of adult words because he’s Richard Pryor. For some reason Kevin Spacey is forced to adopt a thick British accent through the whole film, and in a couple scenes he lays it on even thicker.
The story is mostly an excuse to get a blind man and a deaf man to interact in funny ways, and it’s just funny and strongly-plotted enough to get away with it. I can only see two reasons why they had the female villain and Dave flirt: to get some jokes and reversals of fortune out of it, and so writer’s panel (six co-writers!) member Gene Wilder could kiss and do a nude sequence with the actress.
This movie wasn’t nearly as dreadful as I expected, and while I admit it wasn’t fantastic, it was enjoyable. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. I’m optimistic about seeing other Pryor/Wilder collaborations in the future.
Watch this movie: Nope. Won’t make a blind joke here.
Don’t watch this movie: You hear me? None.
Additionally, this video becomes vaguely relevant at 2:20.