In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “There’s slapstick, there’s wordplay, there’s parody, there’s sketch comedy. Mad World throws every classic comedy trick at the wall, and it’s surprising just how much sticks.”
“Now look, let’s be sensible about this thing. There’s money in this for all of us. Right?”
A few years ago, Silvester Stallone assembled a shit load of 80s and early 90s action heroes, plus a few young bucks, to make the ultimate throwback 80s action movie. It was a sizeable hit and lead to two sequels with more inevitably on the way. I always thought the idea was interesting, but never bothered watching a single movie from the Expendables franchise. More than half a century ago, director Stanley Kramer got a dozen or so classic Hollywood and comedy legends together to make a make a whacky, highway comedy. What I’m saying is, am I the first person to ever compare The Expendables to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?
A car careens down a twisted highway in the California desert. When it flies off the road and crashes in a horrible wreck, several groups of passers by stop to help. What they discover is the car’s driver (Jimmy Durante as Smiler Grogan) about to die from terrible injuries. But before he does, he lets them know about $350,000 in stolen cash, buried in park near the Mexican border, under a big W. Almost immediately, the passers by begin to argue and scheme about how they money should be split if and when they find it. Eventually they settle on an every man for himself approach.
So now it’s a race across California to find the big W and the cash underneath. In the race are two fun loving mates on their way to party in Las Vegas (Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett), a man, wife and mother in law (Milton Berle, Edie Adams and Ethel Merman),a dentist (Sid Ceasar) and a furniture removalist (Jonathan Winters). But they’re not the only ones who know about them money. Veteran cop TG Culpepper (Spencer Tracey) has been on the trail of Smiler Grogan and his stolen cash for a while. When Culpepper learns of the race for the money, he decides to let the greed of the group lead him to the money.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a unique movie, I can’t think if anything else quite like it. The mad cap, epic comedy isn’t something you see every day. Judd Apatow movies aside, comedy is a genre that usually benefits from brevity. Mad World clocks in at over three hours. Rare exceptions like The Blues Brothers aside, comedy is usually small and contained. Mad World is one set piece after another. And while a large ensemble cast is nothing new to the genre, this cast is just ridiculous. As well as the comedy and screen legends listed above, Mad World also includes Peter Falk, Buster Keaton, Carl Reiner, the Three Stooges, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Benny and Don Knotts.
This grandeur should be so antithetical to what makes a movie comedy work. But somehow, this movie reaches a level of maximum manic energy in the opening scene, and sustains for the next three hours. All while throwing in joke after joke after joke after joke. There’s slapstick, there’s wordplay, there’s parody, there’s sketch comedy. Mad World throws every classic comedy trick at the wall, and it’s surprising just how much sticks.