"You know Glenda, there was a time when you had a pretty good sense of
Whenever Neil Simon churns out a screenplay, you can bet it'll be pretty funny. To sweeten the deal, add in some famous comedic actors of the time. Oh, I don't know…say Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn, and Charles Grodin. Mix well and serve chilled. Such was the recipe for Simon's fluffy but funny 1980 comedy Seems Like Old Times. Also starring Robert Guillaume (TV's Benson and Sports Night) and the music of Marvin Hamlisch, Seems Like Old Times reminisces about its glory days on DVD care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Nick Gardenia (Chase) is a writer who is trying to pound out his newest work in an old Oceanside retreat. While working diligently, he's kidnapped by two backwoods yahoo criminals and forced to rob a bank for them. After a camera catches Nick in the act, the police suspect that Nick is the main culprit in the crime! On the lam with no where to go, Nick turns to his ex-wife Glenda (Hawn), no stranger to taking in strays since she already houses six dogs. Glenda reluctantly takes Nick in and attempts to reason with him to turn himself over to the police, but to no avail. Married to an uptight district attorney (Grodin) who is also looking for Nick (and trying to impress the governor to further his career), Glenda must keep Nick out of sight until he can figure out a way to clear his name. Of course, to no one's surprise, about a million and one slapstick moments ensue as Nick tries desperately to stay our of sight and out of jail!
I felt a little dirty watching Seems Like Old Times. I guess dirty isn't the word—guilty is more like it. I felt guilty. In many of my reviews I've talked about being a fairly large Chevy Chase fan. Yet, to my own surprise I'd never seen Seems Like Old Times. I guess there's always one flick that seems to fall through the cracks when you're a fan of a certain actor. I mean hey, how many of you so-called Bill Murray buffs caught him in Loose Shoes? That's what I thought.
I'm glad to report that Seems Like Old Times is an entertaining farce that, while not the pinnacle of comedic entertainment, is certainly a barrel full of laughs. In the 1970s and '80s Simon seemed to be everywhere—his writing credits included The Out-Of-Towners, Murder By Death, California Suite, Max Dugan Returns, Biloxi Blues, and The Odd Couple II. Not long ago I sat down and watched both Murder By Death and California Suite. It struck me that while Simon's plots aren't usually all that original or exciting, he makes up for it in characterization, one-liners, and slapstick antics. This best exemplifies Seems Like Old Times; the plot is ludicrous and stale (wrongfully accused guy hides out at his ex-wife's place), but at least there are some great moments of shear comedic mayhem.
For 1980, you couldn't have picked a better threesome than Chase, Hawn, and Grodin. Chase and Hawn had successfully worked together in the 1978 crime caper Foul Play. In Seems Like Old Times, the chemistry is still there and very goofy (though this would be the last time the two would be paired onscreen). Chase utilizes his usual deadpan delivery to perform Simon's witty zingers. Chase has always played his roles with a sort of monosyllabic detachment—it's as if he is distancing himself from the material, standing outside looking in, and this is what makes his brand of humor work. Hawn plays off of Chase with her usual batting eyes and cutesy charm. Charles Grodin, one of the driest comedic actors ever, fusses and fumes to the point of looking like the world's only human teapot ready to whistle. In other words, all three of these gifted actors use their familiar charms wonderfully on Simon's script.
Seems Like Old Times is a movie that shoves the story to the backseat while the comedy and pratfalls take the wheel. By the middle of the movie we don't really care how Nick is going to get out of his predicament, we just care what set of stairs he's going to fall down next. A movie like this wouldn't be complete without a batch of wild dogs, and just for kicks we get a batch of wild dogs running over people not once, not twice but three times. There's even a great "help I'm trapped in a garden hose" gag by Chase that shouldn't be funny, but somehow is. Hawn and Chase have a real chemistry together; it makes you wish that as their careers progressed they'd have made more movies together.
While I've smeared Seems Like Old Times with seemingly unending accolades, it's by no means a perfect movie. It drags at times, and some of the jokes are sorely outdated. But even with these complaints I have to say that I enjoyed this movie a lot more than expected. Chevy may not be making a lot of movies these days, but at least we can look back and all say with nostalgically glassed over eyes, "Remember when Chevy made FUNNY movies…"
Seems Like Old Times is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (as well as a pan and scan version of the film on side B). This is an only decent transfer that is marred by washed out colors and an abundance of dirt and grain in certain scenes. Sadly, this is the third Simon comedy I've reviewed and to my recollection, none of them have looked very clean. The good news is that the black levels on this disc appear well saturated and dark and no digital artifacting, shimmer, or edge enhancement was spotted anywhere in the print.
The audio is presented in a Mono English mix (I see no sign of the Dolby signature anywhere on this disc). Overall, this is a fine mix for what the film is. There wasn't much need for a remix of any kind since the bulk of this track is dialogue driven and well over twenty years old. The effects, music, and dialogue are mostly free of distortion and hiss save for a few scratches in some of the higher-pitched sounds. Also included on this disc are subtitles in English and French.
The only extra features you'll find on this disc include a full frame theatrical trailer for Seems Like Old Times and a bonus widescreen trailer for the Chevy Chase disappointment (i.e., most of the '90s) Cops and Robbersons.
Columbia has done a fair job on this title, though the transfer could have used a bit more work. The extras are lacking, but Seems Like Old Times isn't a movie that warranted an expensive retrospective or a commentary track by Chase (he already botched up the one on National Lampoon's European Vacation, so keep him away from the microphones).
How can you not like a movie featuring Robert Guillaume and a giant St. Bernard? Case dismissed!
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