MOVIE REVIEW | ***BURT WEEK*** Nickelodeon (1976)

Peter Bogdanovich was one of the most respected directors of the 70s.  Ryan O’Neil was a weird anomaly of acting in the 70s who scored prestige roles in prestige movies, like Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon and Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, but still came away as a bit of a pretty boy joke, never taken too seriously.  Burt Reynolds was the king of charisma in the 70s, making ass kicking raucous action comedies that couldn’t be further from low key meditations on American life, like Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show.  So what happens when these three unlikely collaborators team up?  Nickelodeon happens, that’s what.

It’s early 20th century Chicago and Leo Harrigan (Ryan O’Neil) is a lawyer.  A not very good lawyer.  A not very good lawyer who inadvertently gets mixed up with a small time movie production house and sent away to write movies for them on location with a troupe of actors and crew in the middle of nowhere.  Around the same time, Buck Greenway (Burt Reynolds) inadvertently ends up on stage, before being recruited by the big business movie studios and sent away to sabotage small movie productions, small movie productions like Leo Harrigan’s middle of nowhere operation.

Now promoted to director, Leo is making his first movie when Buck arrives to town with sabotage on his mind.  An extensive punch up between the two eventually ends with Lowe hiring Buck as his new leading man.  Now they’re little film making family is complete, with John Ritter playing their camera man, Tatum O’Neil playing a local little girl with more street smarts than anyone else in the movie, and Jane Hitchcock as the love interest of both Leo and Buck.

A loving tribute to the early time if film making, director and co-writer Peter Bogdanovich was obviously trying to make others as in awe of this time as he clearly is himself.  And for the most part, it works.  Reynolds and Ryan O’Neil are both hilarious in the two lead roles, pulling off some pretty intricate slapstick.  And Tatum O’Neil proves once again that she was one of the best child actors in movie history.

Nickelodeon is a really great movie when it’s being funny, silly, broad and over the top.  I’m actually surprised that Bogdanovich had it in him as a director.  I always assumed he was a little too highbrow and pretentious to actually have fun with a movie.  And it’s when that highbrow pretentiousness rears its head that the movie drops, just a little.

There’s something so on the nose about a movie telling the audience how important movies are to society, and how lucky we are to have them in our lives.  I think that’s true, I just don’t need some privileged film maker and his filthy rich actors telling me that.  I especially don’t need it literally delivered straight into the character with a straight faced monologue.  That one moment toward the end of Nickelodeon really did take a lot of the shine from a movie that I’d enjoyed a lot up until that point.  Now, writing this, I have to remind myself that the good, 99% of the movie really does outweigh that one dud note at the end.

Directed By – Peter Bogdanovich
Written By – Peter Bogdanovich, W.D. Richter

6 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW | ***BURT WEEK*** Nickelodeon (1976)

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