"Well, let's hope they don't call you Speed for everything."
If nothing else, this movie has a great title. Who wouldn't be intrigued and have a little smile put on their face when they see Mother, Jugs, and Speed up on the marquee, in their TV guide, or on their on-screen TV listing. Maybe it's a guy thing to see the word jugs and instantly think about the ramifications of the utterance. Jugs: a cute epithet for boobs, breasts, and the whatnot. If you think about it, it's a pretty bold name for a PG movie. Certainly, we don't name them like that anymore.
And what makes it all the better is that said jugs belong to (or should I say "is" instead?) the sexy Raquel Welch (Myra Breckinridge, Bandolero!). Raquel is the undisputed highlight of this movie, and that's simultaneously saying a lot and a little. Hopefully you'll understand the distinction by the end of this review.
Our movie centers on the exploits of the F+B Ambulance company in Los Angeles. Composed of a ragtag group of individuals, F+B is a private service that doesn't always do things the right way. Whether it's one of their people doing something immoral, one of the drivers breaking the law, a driver being a nuisance to the public, or whether it's the owner who breaks the law, F+B is not your typical place of employment. As it struggles to make a profit, F+B has to fight off its biggest rival, Unity Ambulance. The two are constantly racing each other to see who can get to the body first. And sometimes getting there first isn't important because neither is afraid to deflate the competition's tires.
Running the show over at F+B is Harry Fishbine (Allen Garfield, The Cotton Club, Beverly Hills Cop II), a rather closed-minded man who is out for the quick buck. At times he seems to care, but mostly he's just a mean-spirited blowhard. But leading the crew is Mother (Bill Cosby, The Cosby Show, Fat Albert, Ghost Dad), a good-hearted man who tends to look after everyone in the place. He's definitely not a by-the-book man, but he actually does seem to have a heart buried somewhere. Rounding out the bunch of misfits is Jennifer, under-appreciated secretary who isn't especially fond of being called Jugs; Speed (Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs, From Dusk to Dawn), an ex-policeman with a troubled past; Leroy (Bruce Davison, X-Men), Mother's partner and best friend; Rodeo (Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears linebacker and semi-actor), the strong and silent guy; and Murdoch (Larry Hagman, Dallas, Superman), a morally challenged, lecherous man who seems to have invented the concept of "since she won't date me, she must be a lesbian."
Tragedy soon strikes F+B, shaking the company to its foundation. The service is in chaos, and Jugs makes a bold move to help resolve the situation. But Fishbine is not a progressive thinking man, and he likes Jugs to just be his secretary. Can F+B survive the internal strife? Can it stay afloat with Unity nipping at its heels? What secrets are Speed and Jugs keeping from everyone else?
I'm sure you're like me and you've seen this movie listed about a million times on cable. In truth, I never watched it before today. I was always curious about it, but I guess not enough to stop flipping the channels. And now that I have finally watched this movie, I was right all along: I should have just kept going. I believe this movie is designed to be part dark comedy and part social satire, but I was just wholly bored. Mother, Jugs, and Speed has not aged well. The humor is flat, practically nonexistent (unless you enjoy the occasional over-the-top slapstick moment), and the social commentary is as subtle as Jennifer's nickname. Perhaps we're to be amused by the motley crew and their shenanigans, but I wasn't. Perhaps we're supposed to care about the people when the company begins to fall apart, but I didn't. Perhaps we're supposed to get enraged and rally to Jug's side when Fishbine turns into a chauvinistic pig, but I couldn't. I didn't care a lick about any of them. Mother, Jugs, and Speed is just a bad movie with an impressive line-up of stars (for the time).
As this film is being released as part of the Raquel Welch collection, I feel obliged to spend an extra few moments on her. (Is that a Freudian slip?) The good news is that she's hot. I think I've said that before, so I'll say it again: she's hot. When she's onscreen, you pay attention. Why? Simply because she's "Jugs," and she's usually wearing a very tight sweater, highlighting said part of her anatomy. In this film, though there's an attempt with her character to make a statement, her only real use is as a sex symbol. And that's bad. I know she can do better, but she's very weak here. Her acting is uninspired (but so is everyone else's, really) and lacks emotion. For a woman wronged, she doesn't seem all that mad.
Mother, Jugs, and Speed is still a movie you can skip past, only now in the DVD aisle. The disc sports an anamorphic transfer that is of average quality, with soft blacks, accurate but mellow colors, shallow detail, and some odd "bleaching" near the end of the film. Your choices of audio tracks are all nothing to look forward to either, with inconsistent, hollow dialogue and no range or dynamics. You'll find an assortment of trailers for other Raquel Welch movies, but that's about it…fortunately.
So, while you can ogle the luscious Raquel and her jugs, that's all you'll get from this film. Mother, Jugs, and Speed doesn't translate well to the 21st century. Its attempt at humor and satire has been lost over time, leaving behind a dated, dreary movie.
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