Picks and Pans Review: Being There

UPDATED 01/28/1980 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/28/1980 at 01:00 AM EST

Peter Sellers has always been very funny, and sometimes brilliant, as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies. As fans of old late-show British comedies know, however, he is equally talented at more subtle kinds of humor. Here he plays a mentally deficient gardener who is literally forced onto the street after his employer dies. He is taken in by a rich businessman and his wife, who find his simplemindedness quite charming. One thing leads to another and Sellers soon finds himself meeting the President of the United States and dispensing economic advice. The story, based on Jerzy Kosinski's satirical novel, looks at the world through the eyes of someone not as sophisticated—or jaded—as everyone else. That the Sellers character can become an overnight media sensation simply by describing his formula for growing plants is a pointed comment on America's celebrity-worshiping gullibility. Shirley MacLaine is drolly enchanting as the businessman's wife; Melvyn Douglas is affecting as the dying millionaire; and Jack Warden's President is just the right blend of bluster and foolishness. But the movie's main effect is to confirm how versatile Sellers has always been. (PG)

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