During one of my earlier posts, I pondered on the reasons for why I was able to enjoy comedies from all eras but I couldn’t find myself appreciating dramas from before 1960 (with some exceptions here and there obviously). I decided that the basic reason was comedy is essentially timeless. Barring heavily era-centric referential humor, funny is funny no matter what time period you’re from. With dramas however, things that may seem poignant and fresh for their time really don’t age well and they seem hopelessly naive and idealistic sometimes as short as ten to twenty years down the road. Hence, there’s a reason why, on the whole, comedies have a much better median score on this site than dramas. Less of them get the elusive score of “A” or “A+” (only one comedy thus far has received an A+, The Big Lebowski), but with the exception of the train-wreck that was Gentlemen Broncos, they are also less likely to get terribly low scores. I bring all of this up because I just finished a so-called “classic” comedy, 1947’s Road to Rio, and I feel that it aged terribly. What may have worked for audiences back in the 1940’s instead delivers a film for modern audiences that seemed terribly slow and unclever and survived on the angelic voice of Bing Crosby alone.
In Road to Rio, the fifth of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road to… films, Crosby plays Scat Sweeney to Hope’s Hot Lips Barton (I was forgiven for picturing Loretta Swit every time someone said his name), a pair of vaudeville performers and musicians who flee onto a steam liner headed for Rio de Janeiro after they accidentally burn down the circus at which they were performing. Perpetually penniless (because of Scat’s inability to turn down a beautiful woman), the two board the ship as stow-aways. They quickly meet the beautiful Lucia (Dorothy Lamour) who is about to commit suicide because he evil aunt is forcing her to marry against her will. Scat is quickly smitten with Lucia, and the two hit it off soon after Scat saves her life. However, we soon learn that Lucia’s aunt is capable of using hypnotism to control Lucia’s actions. This leads to a series of screwball adventures in which Scat and Hot Lips have to hide from the ship’s crew and even get the hypnotism turned on themselves.
I could probably count on one hand the number of times this film made me laugh out loud (and it wouldn’t require the rest of my other digits to count the light chuckles). Despite the fact that he was probably the least valuable member of the team, almost all of the big laughs came from Bob Hope whose delivery was so deadpan it often took me a second or two to realize he had even made a joke in the first place, and his slapstick chemistry with Crosby was fantastic. However, the real star of the show (just like in Going My Way) was Crosby. He has an absolutely gorgeous singing voice, and it’s put to full use in several different musical numbers here though perhaps the best were his duet with the Andrews Sisters and the first time that he sings to Lucia. I don’t actually know the names of these songs or whether they were original numbers or standards (and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the film is 54 years old). He was also able to elicit a laugh or two and that relates to the fact that his comedic style was even dryer than Hope’s.
I’m going to keep this review short because I honestly don’t have a lot to say about the film. At only a little over an hour and a half, this film seemed to drag to eternity and that’s pretty unforgivable for such a short running time. While there was certainly a fantastic comedic chemistry between Hope and Crosby, that unfortunately didn’t result in the film actually being all that funny. When it finally was funny, it just served to remind you of how boring the rest of the film was. Outside of hardcore movie buffs who understand the historic value that this film has or for those of you who are big fans of Bob Hope or Bing Crosby, I simply can’t find it in me to recommend this movie.
Final Score: C+