Thursday Editor’s Pick: “What’s Up, Doc?”

by on April 6, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

[7:00 and 9:45 at Chelsea Clearview.] 

Peter Tonguette for Senses of Cinema:

“Bogdanovich has for years been ridiculed by story-oriented critics for modelling the plot of What’s Up, Doc? on Bringing Up Baby, but that shouldn’t let admirers of pure cinema – as opposed to those reviewers for whom plot is everything – from appreciating What’s Up, Doc? for the visual marvel that it is. The car chase in San Francisco is one of the monuments of physical comedy in the contemporary cinema; a sequence so immaculately conceived and executed that it could stand on its own as a two-reeler (although it may be even more impressive because it so effortlessly connects with the rest of the picture).”


Screenwriter Buck Henry:

What’s Up Doc? is a farce, which generally means it’s about nothing except itself.”


Roger Ebert:

“Bogdanovich proves himself a master of screwball comedy — a genre which, until just now, everybody thought was dead. What’s Up, Doc? is a homage of sorts to Howard Hawks, but Bogdanovich isn’t an imitator so much as an admirer with ideas of his own. He gives us everything we hope for: a one-sided courtship between Miss Streisand and O’Neal; a spinsterish fiancee for O’Neal; a scene at a formal banquet with everybody winding up under the table; a hilarious hotel corridor sequence, with people popping in and out of doors as the elevator opens; a chase; remarkable coincidences; a staid reception turned into a pie fight, and all the rest. He also directs with the slapdash economy of the 1930s comedies. What’s Up, Doc? is only about 90 minutes long, takes no time for sloppy romantic scenes, and remembers to be funny even when Miss Streisand is singing (she reclines on top of the piano, natch)… The strength of a movie like this, of course, is that you don’t have to believe too much for too long, because there’s something else happening. The chase scene (Barbra and Ryan aboard a grocery delivery wagon inside a Chinese dragon, being chased downhill by three cars) is as nice as anything in this line in a long time. The grappling on the hotel ledge, while the curtains catch on fire, is classic. The movie works. It is food at last for we who hunger for a screwball comedy utterly lacking in redeeming social importance.”


Vincent Canby for The New York Times:

What’s Up, Doc? is, admittedly, stuffed with references to the comedies of the thirties (as well as to some of the twenties and forties), by Hawks, McCarey, and a number of lesser directors. It also recalls their marvelously inane concerns for mistaken identities and motives, and their great character actors who made the landscapes of these films as immediately familiar to us as those in the Bugs Bunny cartoons, which gave Bogdanovich’s farce its title. However, What’s Up, Doc? is no more a fake antique than is his The Last Picture Show. It has a soul of its own, which reflects the changes, for good and evil, in American life in the last forty years.


What’s Up, Doc? takes place in the classless, homogenized society that television imagines to be at hand, here and now, and the things it doesn’t notice (blacks, Vietnam, you name it) give the film an intentional lack of relevance that, in a backhanded way, makes it seem completely contemporary. That is the dark, unseen side of the picture.”


Director Bogdanovich on the film’s main inspiration Bringing Up Baby in Movie of the Week (his commentary on the DVD release is highly recommended):

“The first time I saw Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Howard Hawks’ delirious screwball romantic comedy, Bringing up Baby, I was pretty sure it was the wildest, most outrageously funny talking picture I had ever seen. To make certain, I saw it again later that same day and I was convinced. In fact, it was even funnier the second time.”


An exciting update at Collider on Bogdanovich’s upcoming feature, Squirrels to the Nuts, another screwball comedy to be produced by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach. And always worth checking out, BLOGDANOVICH, the director/impressionis/historian’s classic movie blog hosted by Indiewire.

Recent Features

Gene Kelly retro at Film Society (thru Jul 26)

July 13, 2012

I'm happy again and like myself: 100 years of Gene.


Erich Von Stroheim retro at Film Forum (thru Jul 30)

May 28, 2012

The decadent realism of Hollywood's favorite sadist.


Migrating Forms Fest at Anthology (thru May 20)

May 11, 2012

Traveling through time and space at NYC's upstart experimental film fest.

View All →