Director John Landis keeps the pace of this atavistic screwball farce frantic but OSCAR's quick pace cannot disguise its shallow style.
Angelo "Snaps" Provolone (Sylvester Stallone), a Runyonesque gangster, agrees to go straight at the behest of his dying father (Kirk Douglas). Provolone has arranged a meeting with the board of directors of a bank to buy his way to a seat on the board and, in that way, renounce his gangster past.
The morning of the meeting sees his mob preparing to convert themselves from mugs and goons to butlers and cooks. But the appearance of Little Anthony Rossano (Vincent Spano), Provolone's accountant, upsets his plans. In no time at all, Little Anthony tells Provolone that he desires a raise in
salary, has stolen $50 thousand from him, and that he is his daughter's lover. Enraged, Provolone confronts his daughter, Lisa (Marisa Tomei), about her lover. In order to trap Provolone into agreeing to her marriage, Lisa informs him that she is pregnant. Before Provolone agrees to the marriage,
however, in enters Theresa (Elizabeth Barondes), who confesses that she is Little Anthony's lover and that she lied to Rossano that she was Provolone's daughter. Confronting Lisa again, he finds out that her lover is not Little Anthony but Provolone's recently fired chauffuer, Oscar (Jim
The farcical plot slips into high gear as Provolone tries to trick Little Anthony into giving him back his $50 thousand before he discovers that Theresa is not really his daughter. To this stew is added a bag of women's underwear that is repeatedly switched with Little Anthony's bag of money and
another bag of jewels, and confusion by media hungry cops, who think that Provolone is into payoffs, and by a rival gang, who think that Provolone is in collusion with another mob. The plot comes to a head when Provolone meets with the bank board, who try to trick Provolone into giving his money
to the bank while squeezing him out of the board of directors. The cops burst in to arrest Provolone but discover that the mob they think is meeting with Provolone to receive the bag of money is the group of bankers and the bag of money they hope to grab from Provolone turns out to be the bag of
underwear. Humiliated, the cops leave, only to crash into the car of the rival mob, capturing the mob boss (Richard Romanus). In the meantime, Provolone discovers that Theresa actually is his daughter from an old flame (Linda Gray) and that Lisa actually loves Provolone's elocution teacher (Tim
Curry). Provolone announces that he is going back to being a crook and the film abruptly ends in a double wedding ceremony.
OSCAR is a formulaic, second-hand remembrance of screwball high jinks that is plotted like a strict, air-tight battle plan. Before the farce plot kicks into gear, the premise of a low-life mob trying to act high class has some promise and OSCAR has the opportunity of being a hip remake of A
SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER. But this premise is quickly jettisoned in favor of a cold and calculating hodge-podge of switched bags and mistaken identities.
The film's only saving grace is in its dream supporting cast. With Don Ameche, Richard Romanus, Ornella Muti, Kirk Douglas, Yvonne DeCarlo, Harry Shearer, Martin Ferrero, Vincent Spano, Ken Howard, William Atherton, Kurtwood Smith and Eddie Bracken along for the ride the film almost becomes an
IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD of character actors. Of particular note is Peter Riegert's Aldo, Provolone's right-hand man, who achieves the perfect hip tone that the film needs and whose delivery is in hilarious Moe Howard intonations. Tim Curry is sincerely screwy as Thornton Poole, the
elocution teacher, and Marisa Tomei as Provolone's daughter, Lisa, gives an amazingly arch performance, reminiscent of Clara Bow in her sound films and Lillian Roth in ANIMAL CRACKERS.
Unfortunately, this bright and energetic support is saddled around the star performance of Sylvester Stallone, with the actors becoming miniature Fred Astaires trying to make a concrete slab look like it can dance. Stallone's two-toned comic performance consists of dull-eyed stares and
monosyllabic shouts of exasperation. To make matters worse, although the script posits Provolone as a menacing thug, Stallone conveys less meanace than cloddishness (which even makes Little Anthony's intimidation of Provolone almost believable). Without any emotional attachments or cultural sense,
this type of comedy becomes colorless and lifeless--at best a time killer. But when the film is also straining under an inconsistant, badly developed script and a heartless, ill-humored star turn, it becomes an expensive exercise in futility. In spite of its harmlessness and enjoyable supporting
cast, OSCAR is irrefutable evidence of the cynicism and insularity of Hollywood power brokers and hack filmmakers.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG
- Review: Director John Landis keeps the pace of this atavistic screwball farce frantic but OSCAR's quick pace cannot disguise its shallow style. Angelo "Snaps" Provolone (Sylvester Stallone), a Runyonesque gangster, agrees to go straight at the behest of his dyin… (more)