There are some days when I hate the list. The recent Luis Bunuel marathon? Whenever an Eisenstein film drops through my door? The 9-hour holocaust documentary? Those are all such days, none involving good times. But some days I get to watch a film where most of the characters are made of felt and have a hand shoved inside them somewhat further than recommended by most professional actors.
As soon as Steve Martin, in his first major movie role at the age of 34, tells us he was born a poor black child, you know you’re in for a bizarre ride, as Martin’s Navin R. Johnson, raised by a poor black family when abandoned on their doorstep as a baby, discovers he was adopted (“You mean I’m gonna stay this colour?”) and heads out into the world to find his future. Martin nails his naive, boyish role, capturing a childlike excitement at everything, and the tone retains an occasionally ludicrous but always hilarious feel, as Navin rises to greatness, then crashes down again. This was the perfect vehicle to shoot Martin into superstardom, showcasing his excellent comic timing, random sense of humour and skill with a pratfall.