Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie Review: Ball of Fire

I added this movie to my Netflix queue because it was labeled as a screwball comedy and I've sampled very little of the genre (e.g. Hitchcock's Mr. and Mrs. Smith [1]). Some of the tropes commonly found in screwball comedies are: eccentric secondary characters, reverse class snobbery, barbed and witty dialogue, farcical situations, and plots involving courtship and marriage—especially where one character is uptight and the other is carefree.[2] Ball of Fire manages to hit all of these points. It is about a philologist who is writing an encyclopedia article about American slang who has the shock of his life when he meets a woman of the streets only to discover that he knows nothing at all about the current state of American slang, thus rendering his article obsolete. In this case the eccentric secondary characters, his fellow professors/encyclopedia article writers are based on the seven dwarfs of Snow White fame.[3]

My verdict: When I heard Gary Cooper's voice (he plays the main professor) I was sure he was the narrator of Disney's 1940 film Fantasia. Boy was I wrong.[4] The female half of the romantic pair (played by Barbara Stanwyck) is part of the Jazz music scene. So there are a couple of Jazz musical pieces highlighted. The second song, "Drum Boogie", was annoying and too long. I felt like most of the comedy fell flat, the story as a whole wasn't very engaging, and the romance was mostly (but not entirely) unconvincing.


[1] Read my review of that film here.

[2] See See also

[3] See of Fire#Production.

[4] It was, instead, Deems Taylor, a music critic and composer.

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