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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Wholly Moses
Wholly Moses
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // July 6, 2004
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 28, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I've always thought that the late 70's and early 80's were a golden age for irreverent comedies.  Animal House (1978,) Life of Brian (1979,) and Airplane (1980) were all movies I saw in the theater, the later two on opening night.  But with the success of these and other great comedies, there was bound to be a crop of pale imitations hoping to cash in on the trend, and there were.  Some of them were okay, many not so good, but until now I have managed to miss one of the worst comedies from this period:  Wholly Moses! 

When I first saw this DVD in my box of screeners, I thought it was curious that I hadn't heard of it before.  It had a collection of great comedians:  Richard Pryor, Dudley Moore, Laraine Newman, (who has a staring role but isn't given credit on the cover,) Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, and James Coco.  How could I have missed this?  After viewing the movie, I think I can understand how it slipped past.  It's because this movie is absolutely wretched, and no one in his or her right mind would have recommend this to me.  I have had my finger slammed in a car door, and that is preferable to watching this movie again.  At least with the car door, it's over quickly and you have a good story to tell.  This movie seems to go on and on, the pain doesn't end and there's nothing good to say about it afterwards.

The plot, what there is of one, is fairly simple.  While taking a tour of the Holy Land, Harvey (Dudley Moore) meets Zoey (Laraine Newman.)  The tour stops for lunch, and when the wind blows Zoey's hat away the pair go in search of it.  They climb into a hidden cave where they find some ancient scrolls.  Luckily, Harvey is a professor of languages and can read Aramaic.  (How I wish that he'd been a plumber.  The movie might have ended there.)  The scrolls tell the story of Herschel and Zerelda (also played by Dudley Moore and Laraine Newman.)  Herschel's life is amazingly similar to Moses':  They are both put in a basket and sent down the Nile as infants, they end up marring two sisters, and they both believe that they have been chose to free their people.  Herschel could have been big, if Moses didn't keep getting in the way.

The film is a series of scenes that attempt to parody stories in the Bible.  Unfortunately there really isn't anything linking the stories together, it's just one sketch after another. I could ignore that if the movie was funny, but it isn't, not in the least.  I spent most of 100+ minutes of the film wondering "was that supposed to be a joke?" or "was I supposed to laugh there?"  There are a lot of bathroom humor, and people getting hit on the head.   Now I love slapstick if it's set up properly, but none of this was.

It is incredibly obvious that this movie was meant to cash in on the popularity of The Life of BrianBrian was made just the year before this was released, and received rave reviews for the most part.  So instead of doing a parody of the New Testament, the creators of this movie decided to spoof the Old Testament.  But they got it all wrong.  The jokes are bad, the setups lame and the laughs nonexistent.  The script is so bad that I can't imagine how the project ever got green lighted.  My own theory is that this movie is the result of a game of Truth-or-Dare that got terribly out of hand.

"But," I hear you ask, "what about all those stars you listed earlier?"  Well, they are in the film, but most of them have such a small role that if you don't pay close attention you'll miss it.  One scene, a few lines that are not funny, and off you go on your way to the next guest appearance.

All in all I couldn't find anything good about this movie.  I was hoping that one of the cameos would be worth singling out as being good, or that I could find a couple of lines that were funny enough to quote, but I didn't.  I don't think I cracked a smile during the entire movie.  This is a waste of time.

The DVD:


Audio:

The movie has a two-channel soundtrack that sounded like it was mono.  There were optional Spanish subtitles but English subs were not available.  The sound was not very dynamic for a film made in 1980.  The range was very narrow, with the blaring trumpets not sounding as broad as they should have and the full orchestral music had a cramped feeling.   The dialog was easy to understand, but with this film that's not necessarily an advantage.

Video:

To add insult to injury, the video for this film has been panned and scanned to a 1.33:1 aspect ration.  I can't say that I would have liked the movie if it had been presented as it was intended to be seen with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but I'm sure the movie would have looked better.  As it was, the frame often looked cramped and crowded.  The image itself looked pretty good, with only a little grain in some scenes and a few specks.  But even a good picture can't save this movie.

The Extras:

The only extra on this DVD is a reel of trailers for A League of Their Own, Fail Safe, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  These were more entertaining than the movie itself.

Final Thoughts:

No collection of the unfunniest comedies of all time could be complete without this DVD, since it surely ranks in the top ten.  People who collect cameos by John Ritter will also want to run out and grab a copy of this disc.  Everyone else stay away.  Stay far away.  Skip it. 

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