Picks and Pans Review: See No Evil, Hear No Evil

updated 05/29/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/29/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder

It's true that this comedy about a blind man (Pryor) and a deaf one (Wilder) who get involved in a murder is often very funny. It's further true that the characters assert themselves becomingly, rising above their physical problems; the insensitivities of the nonafflicted when dealing with the blind and deaf are neatly satirized. How much anyone will be able to enjoy this movie, though, will depend on how much one's conscience rebels at being asked to laugh when a blind man walks into a wall and a deaf man doesn't hear someone getting shot 10 feet behind him. For those subject to queasiness, the going gets especially tough when Pryor has a gun battle with another blind man in a small room. The notion seems funny; the execution of the idea is funny; yet a comfortable laugh is hard to come by.

Pryor and Wilder (who also teamed in Silver Streak and Stir Crazy) can't be faulted for their performances, at least. Their characters are defiant—Pryor refuses to wear dark glasses or carry a cane, Wilder to use a hearing aid—and they never seem pathetic. Both of them lust briefly after the villainess, Joan Severance of TV's Wiseguy, Pryor because she smells good, Wilder because he has seen her legs.

Director Arthur Hiller—who has done everything from Love Story to Outrageous Fortune—belabors a couple of scenes, one in which Pryor drives a car while the handcuffed Wilder directs him, another in which a police photographer can't get Wilder's mug shot taken because every time he turns his head for a profile, he can't read her lips and understand her directions. The movie mostly flows easily, though, to its satisfying conclusion.

If it makes audiences reexamine their own thoughts about the blind and deaf, the film may serve an inadvertent purpose, and the laughs are there. You just may hate yourself in the morning an unsettling little bit. (R)

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