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The 4th Tenor


The 4th Tenor

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It doesn't really matter how Jay Mohr's Last Comic Standing TV show turns out: Everyone knows that the title properly applies to Rodney Dangerfield, an old-school stand-up who never met a one-liner he couldn't turn into gold with a bob of the neck, a tug of the tie, or a bug of the eye. At 81, Dangerfield has been a middle-aged comeback, a novelty songsmith, a movie star, an Internet pioneer, an animated dog, and the godfather to several generations of young comics. He's got nothing left to prove, and sadly, that's all too evident in the sweet but lazy The 4th Tenor. A follow-up to the Mormon-themed laugher My 5 Wives, Dangerfield's latest direct-to-video offering finds him playing the proprietor of a restaurant that caters to an extremely specific clientele, the kind that doesn't mind a few good-natured insults with their pasta. "You come to the white part, that's the plate," Dangerfield tells a pair of portly diners in an early scene that takes full advantage of his well-honed shtick. That's about as good as it gets, however, since director Harry Basil (who co-wrote the script with Dangerfield) soon has his star lusting after Dinner & A Movie host Annabelle Gurwitch, who plays a fickle singer who vows to only love a great opera star. Duped by con man Robert Davi, Dangerfield soon departs for Italy to learn how to sing. There, he encounters a family with a magical voice-enhancing wine, wins the heart of a vintner's daughter, and engages in assorted shenanigans, many involving some of the least convincing stuntwork since Back To School's Triple Lindy. The film has a good heart but little else, and it doesn't cater to its star's strengths by letting him play the stooge instead of the stooge-maker. Dangerfield is always a welcome presence, but this time, he's made a movie that's too respectable for its own good. Why waste time having him teach old Italian women how to cook when he could be taking the stuffing out of snooty opera patrons?