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VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET (1960)
Article #427 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 5-16-2002
Posting date: 10-9-2002

A student from outer space decides to take a field trip to Earth to study the inhabitants.

This movie was based on a satirical play by Gore Vidal; it shouldn't take more than a glimpse at the cast list to figure out that whatever satirical elements remain in the finished product are going to be coincidental. This is pretty much the case; most of the story has indeed been doctored to the talents of its star, Jerry Lewis, though hints and glimpses of satire remain around the edges.

Watching Jerry Lewis at this time in my life does remind me why I liked him when I was a kid; it also reminds me of how vital it was that I had been a kid when I was first exposed to him; if I had been any older, I would most likely have loathed him. For all that, this movie is quite watchable; I expected to be embarassed by Jerry's antics, but I wasn't. The reason for this may be that, no matter how potentially embarassing any given gag might be, Jerry threw himself into it with a gusto and commitment to the gag that belied any embarassment on his part, and I think this is a crucial point, because if I had at any time sensed embarassment on his part, I would have felt the same. Another interesting thing about him was that occasionally he would set aside his usual persona to pull off more sophisticated gags, such as during the point when he helps his host keep his job by blackmailing his boss. This is quite admirable, in a sense, and it does show that the man possessed some acting talent; unfortunately, it also revealed that his usual persona was nothing but a persona, which may explain why you never really believe the character. And also why, though I find this movie watchable enough, I never find it more than tepidly funny.

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