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Mr. Saturday Night

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Also known as Buddy Young, Jr. (né Yankelman), a composite Jewish stand-up comedian remindful in many ways — many, many ways — of the silent-film clown in Carl Reiner's The Comic, albeit without the intrinsic cinematic interest. A novice in the final days of vaudeville, a warm-up act in the early days of Vegas, a TV star of meteoric ephemerality in the mid-Fifties, and afterwards a marginal nightclub headliner on an ever-widening margin — this is a role tailor-made to disguise Billy Crystal's limitations as an actor, much as The Sunshine Boys (mentioned explicitly in passing) disguised Neil Simon's limitations as a playwright: the all-pervasive, all-enveloping, all-encrusting shtick. And even the schmaltz, a more or less overt and universal component of the approval-craving funny man, is not out of place here, though it is quite out of proportion, rising above knee-depth by the end, and making for very hard slogging. Crystal, as a first-time director, shows himself to be far from immune to the occupational disease of many an actor-turned-director, the rampant closeup — a particularly deadly disease in a movie so dependent on Curse of the Mummy old-age makeup. With David Paymer and Julie Warner. (1992) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated R

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