In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Crosby and Hope are so good at delivering gags, just the cadence alone is enough to make them funny. A little context only makes them better.”
“Who wants to work? We’re musicians!”
Last year, we got a seventh Fast and Furious movie, a seventh Rocky movie, and the Marvel universe branched out to be over a dozen movies strong. But even with these standouts, and every movie studio looking for ways to create their own extended universes, franchises of this size are still more of an exception than the rule. But, they’re nothing new. From 1937 to 1958, Mickey Rooney made 16 movies built around his Andy Hardy character, a series I really want to write about if I could track down enough of its entries. But for me, the other most prominent franchise of that era, is the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope lead ‘Road To’ movies. And I was stoked to recently stumble across one with Road to Rio.
After running into girl trouble from one side of America to the other and being chased out of town by angry fathers, vaudevillians Scat Sweeney (Crosby) and Hot Lips Barton (Hope) end up in Louisiana were they hop a ship bound for Rio. Stowing away by hiding in a life raft, they manage to go undetected until they meet Lucia Maria (Dorothy Lamour). Scat is obviously smitten, but Hot Lips is determined to stop his friend from getting them both in the hot water that inevitably comes when they meet women.
Soon enough, they’re dragged into Lucia’s world. A world where she’s being hypnotised and manipulated into a dodgy marriage. And since they’re entertainers, there’s never an excuse too flimsy for them break into song and dance numbers.
Because this is a Bing Crosby, Bob Hope movie, things like story and plot take a backseat to songs, dances, jokes and physical comedy. Road to Rio never hesitates in throwing logic out the window if it will give the characters an excuse to do something, anything funny. There are so many gags that should seem lazy, but Crosby, and especially Hope, are so good at it and so funny, there’s no need for a coherent story or logical choices by the characters.
Road to Rio is very much of its time and super meta in a lot of its jokes. It constantly references the actors’ real lives outside of the movie, current events and pop culture staples of the day. Without the IMDB trivia page, all of these jokes would have flown right by me. Hot Lips referring to his trumpet as “Grable bait” would mean nothing to me if it wasn’t for IMDB letting me know that actress Betty Grable had recently married a trumpet player. Or a cutaway in a meat locker to show that the stock comes from “Crosby Grade A Stables”, which was a reference to Bing’s notoriously unsuccessful race horses in real life. I may not have got these jokes without the history lesson, but here’s the thing, I still think I would have laughed at them. Crosby and Hope are so good at delivering gags, just the cadence alone is enough to make them funny. A little context just makes them better.
Of the long running series of ‘Road To’ movies, this is the only the second I’ve seen. Reading its Wikipedia page, Road to Rio is regarded as OK, but not an example of this series at its best. Road to Bali, the other I’ve seen, is regarded as the series long past its prime. So if that’s the case, I need to see the others. Because like Road to Bali, Road to Rio really made me laugh and reminded me that Bob Hope is one if the funniest people in movie history.