Road to Rio (1947)

2010 #101
Norman Z. McLeod | 97 mins | TV | U

Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour return for the fifth film in the Road to… series.

If you’ve seen one Road to film then you’ve a fair idea what to expect from any other: lots of comedy, a few songs, a bit of romance, as well as some general hijinks. The differences, in all of these aspects, lie in the specifics: which songs, which gags, and so on. Even the plot’s largely the same, though transplanted to different settings. Not that the story really matters — it’s a post on which to hang jokes, slapstick routines, musical numbers, and whatever else the stars and filmmakers felt like throwing into the pot. One might say it’s a variety show with a framing device, though there is a little more to the narrative than that.

In this particular entry, my personal preferences largely extend to the comedy scenes, though the musical side is noteworthy as the only film Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters appeared in together. But my preferred trio here is the Wiere Brothers, as three Brazilian musicians who enable a couple of good comedy routines. It’s awkward to list specific favourites when it comes to such sequences — there’s a danger of either ruining the joke or not conveying why it’s worth mentioning — but Rio has its share, I promise.

To relate it to the other Road to movies I’ve seen (and reviewed), in terms of quality Rio falls ahead of Singapore but behind Morocco. The three stars I’ve awarded to each belies how much I enjoyed them, with Morocco in particular worth a fourth. But I think it’s also fair to say these films are a rather dated style of entertainment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — as noted, I still think they’re fun, and I’m sure many others do and would too — but plenty of modern viewers would find them (to be polite) too quaint.

3 out of 5

The Paleface (1948)

2007 #109
Norman Z. McLeod | 87 mins | DVD | U

The PalefaceBob Hope and Jane Russell star in this Wild West comedy, in which Calamity Jane (Russell) has to stop a group of men smuggling rifles to the Indians. It’s clearly designed as pure entertainment, mixing styles in a way no film would dare attempt today — there’s broad comedy, gunfights, horse chases, and even a song or two!

It works too. OK, so the direction may be a little flat and some of the comedy old fashioned… but it was made in the ’40s and there’s still a good number of laughs, so it seems churlish to complain.

4 out of 5