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Down and Out in Beverly Hills Reviews

This very first R-rated picture ever to come out of that bastion of squeaky-cleanness, Walt Disney Studios (under the aegis of their subsidiary Touchstone), is a howl from start to finish. Dave Whiteman (Dreyfuss) has made it big in the coat hanger business. He and wife Barbara (Midler) live in a huge house in Beverly Hills with their children, Jenny (Nelson), an anorexic college student, and Max (Richards), an androgynous budding filmmaker. Barbara is the ultimate yenta who spends her days having her hair and nails done, shopping, and going to classes. Also living in the house are Carmen (Pena), a seductive Latino maid with whom Dave is having an affair, and Matisse (Mike), the family dog who refuses to eat despite regular visits to a doggie psychiatrist. When tramp Jerry Baskin (Nolte) enters their lives after attempting to drown himself in the Whiteman swimming pool, Dave saves his life and invites him to become part of the family, a decision that has some very comic results. A sometimes extremely funny revamping of Jean Renoir's classic black comedy BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING, Mazursky's film also works as a broad but scathing satire of upper-class California culture. Although the ending is softened from Renoir's original, this garishly colored film succeeds quite well on its own terms. The film is full of moments both surprising (Jerry showing Matisse that his dog food is eminently eatable) and entertainingly predictable (Jerry getting intimately involved with several family members; an "everyone into the pool" sequence). The cast is entirely up to the comic hysteria Mazursky requires of them, though Mike the dog steals whatever scene he is in. Look for Mazursky in a bit part as an accountant.