Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Good Times is regarded as a trap for neophyte director William Friedkin, but given the fact that
it's a blatant vanity film for a pair of trendy pop stars, it's better than respectible. The later
bad-boy director of The Exorcist here does his best to make the marginally talented duo
of Sonny & Cher (so what is it really, Cher or Chér?) into peppy movie stars.
Originally a Columbia production, this apparently reverted to ABC films and has come out in the
current flood of MGM-ABC product. Happily, it has a splendid new transfer.
Sonny & Cher (playing themselves) are approached by the diabolical Mr.
Mordicus (George Sanders), an executive who wants to dabble in movies. When Sonny rejects
Mordicus' rags-to-riches hillbilly concept, he's given the option to come up with his
own script in ten days. Sonny daydreams himself as a gunslinger, Tarzan and a private eye
but doesn't get anywhere. Meanwhile, Cher's not happy and Mordicus is threatening to end
their careers forever.
The meaninglessly titled Good Times wastes no time getting to its core content, a
conceptual musical number filmed in a straightforward but creatively decorative way. Cher is
the star, even though presumed business brain Sonny gives himself twice as much screen time;
just like the character she plays, the real Cher may have been wary of being onscreen
too much. In the first number she sings along in front of cartoon images of Dick Tracy and Tarzan
and finally a solarized hi-con image of Sonny; the film is so technically astute that when
the hi-con Sonny pops to life and sings as well, it's a surprise. Is this the birth of MTV,
by the master of Green Pea soup?
Friedkin applies his filming smarts to the flimsy story without overwhelming it. Mordicus' faceless
office empire is nicely evoked, and the camera moves smartly and unobtrusively to find good
camera positions. George Sanders probably appreciated working with an enthused wit like Friedkin
and holds his end of the nothing story without looking bored or disgusted, as he often does.
AIP was less than a year into its 'wild youth' series of hippie sagas, which tend to look forced,
feeble and especially artless next to the clean lines of Friedkin's personality vehicle. Sonny and
Cher weren't as thoroughly manufactured as The Monkees but they were a marketing calculation that
Sonny must have put together as a win-win for record producers: the pair had Beatle haircuts,
sappy love songs and a conformist non-conformist style that was irresistable.
Cher actually could sing and clearly had a quiet brain working behind Sonny's salesmanship; we get the
feeling that she was the kind of teen who sewed her own clothes and cut her own hair until she
hit the big time. Hiding behind Sonny's personality was a good choice for her, for both in this
movie and the dreadful
Chastity Cher's biggest problem seems
to be insecurity over how to best express herself. 1
Friedkin lets Cher sing two or three times and say some punch lines for the fantasy gag parts of
the movie. These aren't as bad as they sound; each has George Sanders as the villain. Sonny is
first a pitifully inept sheriff facing off against some High Noon baddies, with some punchy
sight gags and reasonably witty spoof material, like Sanders' immobile mean look or Sonny's being
unable to hit a can no matter how many times he fires his six-gun.
The Tarzan takeoff is a full-on lampoon of the
MGM Series complete with
elephant-powered elevator. The blacks are all dressed like tropical hipsters and written to counter
the basic offensiveness of the originals. Sanders naturally plays a hunter hoping to loot the
The detective spoof has some nice riffs on film noir material with
people conspiring loudly within earshot of their enemies, etc. A shootout in a bar results in a
ridiculous piling-up of dead bodies, and Sonny even uses a woman as a shield in a pre- Police
Cher shows up as a damsel in distress or a dancehall girl, singing some weak songs; when Sonny
takes off on his motorcycle to grieve over his problem, we get an equally weak tradeoff of musical
soliloquies. Their normal life seems to consist of Sonny watching Cher buy flower-power fashions
(which she always looks good in) and Cher watching as Sonny gets his hair cut. Sonny is clearly
camera-hungry while Cher comes off as rather shy. The story is
resolved without too much fuss, but the movie really ends with a triumphant version of, what
else, I've Got You Babe. All around, it's not near as difficult to watch as one might
Monkee Mickey Dolenz does an unbilled bit as a TV Tarzan that catches Sonny's eye. Mordicus'
sexy secretaries include Edy Williams, and China Lee of
What's Up Tiger Lily? Ford perennial
Hank Worden peeks in as Sonny's Tarzan helper.
MGM's DVD of Good Times is a beauty, in a sparkling enhanced transfer and crystal clear
sound. Colors are particularly bright and snappy. You just know this one sat in the cool, dry and
dark end of a vault, probably thanks to some Cher fan. It used to be part of the Columbia library
and thus looks odd next to
Casino Royale in the MGM stable.
There are no extras. The film is unrated but would undoubtedly be a "G."
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Good Times rates:
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: August 28, 2004
1. By the way,
Good Times answers the question of why Cher name-drops Andre Tayir in Chastity; the
West Side Story dancer does the choreography for Good Times and a couple of his
dancers look like they were original movie Shark girls.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson