Legend Films // 1978 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // July 31st, 2008
She had to marry him. She was too embarrassed to date him.
"The One and Only is the rare kind of romantic comedy that can tug on your heart, but also make you stand up and cheer!" -- Back of DVD case
Ohio, 1950s: cocky college student Andy Schmidt (Henry Winkler, Happy Days) desperately wants to be an actor. Not just any actor, either: a great actor, one for whom millions will come from miles around to catch a glimpse of his genius. In reality, Andy lives in a fantasy world, always coming off as an obnoxious jaybird, whether it's on the stage or on the football field. All his wacky initiative accomplishes is getting married to Mary Crawford (Kim Darby, True Grit), a pretty girl from an uptight conservative family.
After graduation, Andy and Mary move to New York, despite the misgivings of her mother (Polly Holliday, Gremlins) and father (William Daniels, The Graduate). Andy's attempts at snagging an acting job are futile, and now the young couple is struggling financially...especially when Mary announces she's pregnant! Andy's life changes when he meets a dwarf named Milton (Herve Villechaize, Fantasy Island), who gets him a job working for Sydney Seltzer (director Gene Saks, Cactus Flower)...as a professional wrestler!
I wanted to like this movie, I really did. The cast was interesting, the premise was inspired, and there was the potential for both silliness and satire. On top of all that, the film was written by Steve Gordon (Arthur) and directed by Carl Reiner (All Of Me), two of the biggest names in comedy.
However, The One and Only turns out to be a total smackdown. What went wrong? I hate to say it, but one of the film's biggest problems is its lead character. I admire Winkler for his enthusiasm, but he makes Andy Schmidt not only obnoxious and annoying, but also borderline hateful at times. Every time he yells at Mary and treats her disrespectfully, it made me want to be on him like stink on a Will Ferrell movie. Andy's extremely brash attitude is supposed to be funny and endearing, but when he only gives a damn about himself (and nobody else), it's kind of difficult for us to give a damn.
Winkler does have his moments, but they are few and far between. For the first half, he sings (badly), insults others (badly), and acts as if he's a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, barely stopping to catch a breath. He doesn't calm down until Villechaize shows up and, by that time, the story might have lost your interest. I don't blame Winkler entirely, as he was obviously miscast; if this were made today, perhaps Adam Sandler would have benefited more from this material. I also imagined Mike Myers and Verne Troyer (in Milton's role) tackling this, but the improvement would have no doubt been nonexistent.
The late Steve Gordon had a simple goal: create an unlikable character and make him likeable by the end. It worked for Arthur, mostly because it had "cuddly" Dudley Moore, as well as a lead character who embraced his needs so that they outweighed his negatives. Gordon fails with The One and Only because by the time he wants us to care about his characters, we hate Andy, embarrassed at his decisions and attitude. If Gordon had avoided romanticism and maintained a comic tone, it might have been better; still, even the wrestling scenes are written stupidly, resulting in many lost opportunities.
Much of the supporting cast act as if they are in a hypnotic trance. This is especially true of Darby, who just smiles and reacts with shock to Winkler's insane behavior. She's cute, but she has no layers or dimensions to make us understand her decision to stay with this loser. Daniels and Holliday are both extremely talented actors who end up being wasted here, though Saks has some fun with his role as the wrestling manager. As for Villechaize, they managed to use his diminutive size as a foil for cheap laughs; plus, you might cringe when he feels up Holliday's legs.
Film buffs will want to look out for Ed Begley, Jr., and Mary Woronov, who both have small roles. Wrestling fans will also get a kick watching a 24-year-old "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (in his film debut) as Leatherneck Joe Brady.
Legend Films gives us another empty DVD release. Video is a scratchy 1.78:1 Anamorphic transfer, retaining all the flawed visual glory of an out-of-print VHS tape. Audio is much better in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, with dialogue easily heard. Once again, no extras.
There isn't much more to say about The One And Only except you could do much worse. Recommended for Winkler completists only; others, beware.
The film is found guilty, with Andy Schmidt being sent to the mental ward for his offensive existence.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Legend Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated PG