Funny Bones (1995) — What makes a comedian tick?

“I never saw anything funny that didn’t cause pain.”

Clare’s rating: Stellar performances add to a strangely told story

Clare’s review: Most movies will go to great pains to make the interconnectedness of their characters seem as obvious or understandable as possible. With a few notable exceptions, your average film will introduce the viewer to a time, a place and a group of characters and then let whatever conflict the movie is centered around unfold.

Funny Bones, however, isn’t your average movie.

It’s chock full of funny, weird, strangely sad characters who embark in their own funny, weird, strangely sad story lines. It just takes a good while for their stories to mesh and the full picture of what’s going on to make sense. Normally, I might find that kind of thing annoying or at least a little tedious. Here however, it struck my as inspired. There are lulls in the progression of the plot, but nothing that takes away from the over all value of the film.

Oliver Platt plays Tommy Fawkes, son of legendary comedian George Fawkes played here by legendary comedian Jerry Lewis. Tommy has made the regrettable mistake of following in his father’s footsteps even though it becomes painfully obvious that he isn’t all that funny. In an act of desperation, Tommy flees from a horrific gig in Vegas to get back to his roots in Blackpool, England in an attempt to discover what the definition of true comedy is.

Blackpool is a Mecca of old timey vaudevillian type comedic genius and is also where Tommy and his parents spent the first six years of his life. In Blackpool, Tommy interviews a slew of talented performers all with their own unique shtick. But none have anything that Tommy can buy to fob off back home as his own. That is until one night when he catches the act of a sort of comedic idiot savant/prodigy/madman/genius Jack Parker played by British comedian extraordinaire, and a huge personal favorite of mine, Lee Evans. Tommy soon unearths a couple of family secrets, madcap adventure and other weirdness ensues, all intercut with breathtaking physical comedy routines that show us more than anything that truly brilliant comedy is often rooted in darkness.

The reason I would recommend that you rent Funny Bones isn’t for the oddly sequenced story development or it’s inevitably strange but satisfying conclusion. I recommend this movie based on the film’s unique and interesting performances and because I loved how bittersweetly almost every single scene in this movie played out. Lee Evans makes his film debut here but has been a golden boy of UK stand up for years. His performance here is riveting, hilarious and harrowing. Why this movie didn’t launch him head long into the stratosphere of fame I can only assume is due to the fact that hardly anyone’s seen this movie. In addition to Evans, there are also amazing performances by George Carl, Freddie Davies and Leslie Caron as Jack’s family of truly funny performers. Oliver Platt, who I waffle between liking and disliking on an ongoing basis, is convincing and well cast here while Jerry Lewis is basically playing himself for all I can see and thankfully doesn’t have a huge role in the proceedings here.

This movie is definitely not for everyone, but if you’re in the mood to try something different and want something that will make you laugh and also make you feel kinda sad, this movie should be at the top of your list. If that doesn’t convince you, see it for the same reason I keep watching it over and over again: to marvel at the sheer abundance of talent oozing from Lee Evans.

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