Picks and Pans Review: Haunted Honeymoon

updated 08/11/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/11/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Connoisseurs of haunted-house comedies aren't likely to rank this among prime examples of the genre, such as Abbott and Costello's Hold That Ghost or Bob Hope's Ghost Breakers. Director Gene Wilder and his co-writer, former art director Terence Marsh, have left too many lame lines in this film about a couple who return to the man's hoary family estate to get married. "His memory's going," Wilder says of a forgetful butler. "I wish we were," replies Gilda Radner. Wilder has also wasted too many opportunities, frittering away any number of scenes that seem to have been chopped off just as they were starting to get funny. A lot of them involve Radner. Mrs. Wilder in real life, she plays his fiancée in the film and seems almost painfully subdued. She's not a bad straight woman; it just seems an underuse of her talent. There's a cathartic tone to the scene in which she does a raucous rendition of Ballin' the Jack with Dom DeLuise, who deftly plays Wilder's grandmother (as a prim sort of dowager with a five o'clock shadow). It's reminiscent of the Puttin' on the Ritz number Wilder did with Peter Boyle in Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein. Indeed, Wilder seems doomed to invidious comparisons with Brooks, who directed The Producers, in which Wilder made his movie-acting breakthrough. As writer-director of such films as The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, The World's Greatest Lover and The Woman in flied, Wilder has turned out pleasant, sporadically funny comedies. Nothing he has done, however, approaches the wild yet carefully crafted humor Brooks generates when he gets a film rolling. Wilder almost seems too gentle, too lacking in Brooks's willingness to display an edge of nastiness. While Haunted Honeymoon has its entertaining moments, it makes Wilder seem almost complacent, like a ballplayer who's content to get one hit a game. (PG)

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