Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection Volume 2
Though it contains five titles instead of the first volume's eight, the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection Volume 2 is superior, if only because these films, watched in succession, break down the breakdown of the comedy team. When aloof crooner Martin started collaborating with shameless clown Lewis in nightclubs in the mid-'40s, they were two personalities who had no business sharing a stage, and they played off each other unpredictably. By the end of their run in movies, Martin and Lewis had been all but segregated. Two of the films in this second volume are remakes of classic comedies—Living It Up updates Nothing Sacred, while You're Never Too Young refashions The Major And The Minor—and in both, Lewis has the plum role, while Martin is shoehorned in.
You're Never Too Young finds Lewis overreaching as an apprentice barber pretending to be an 11-year-old boy in order to dodge murderous jewel thieves. Aside from a funny setpiece that has Lewis taking command of Martin's children's choir, Lewis is too off-model, and Martin too absent. The duo have better luck with Living It Up, with Lewis playing his more typical braying naïf, while Martin is whimsically lackadaisical as a quack who misdiagnoses him with radiation poisoning. Their subsequent trip to New York—on the expense account of a newspaper looking for a sob story—doesn't play out with the acid misanthropy of Nothing Sacred, but it's bright and energetic, with lots of stunning mid-'50s décor. And Pardners is a weak Western spoof doubling as an overcompensating salute to male bonding. It's late-period Martin and Lewis in a nutshell: likeable but sputtering, and over before it really begins.
None of these films (all directed by Norman Taurog) have the snap of Frank Tashlin's Artists And Models and Hollywood Or Bust. As an ex-animator, Tashlin had a sensibility sympathetic to Lewis', working with him on clockwork gags purposefully undone by Lewis' anarchic clumsiness. Artists And Models is arguably the peak of their collaboration, with Lewis playing a comics-addled, self-proclaimed "retard" obsessed with the extra-gory Bat Lady series, while Martin plays a starving artist who pays his rent by drawing Lewis' nightmares. Hollywood Or Bust is a more conventional road picture, with Martin as a small-time hood who tries to swindle dim movie lover Lewis out of a new car. As with the other Martin and Lewis pictures, there's no real tension, though Tashlin occasionally pushes certain American "types"—like a giggling used-car salesman known as "Stupid Sam"—until their inherent ridiculousness is exposed in a frenzy of absurdist visual gags and pop satire.
Key features: None.