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Funny Bones A, A

UK/1995/Color/Widescreen 1.85:1/Stereo Surround/128 minutes/Directed by Peter Chelsom/Starring Oliver Platt, Lee Evans/Hollywood Pictures/30 Chaps/2 discs/CLV/$39.99

      Funny Bones is a daring and original work of passion that confirms the extraordinary talent of its director Peter Chelsom. This incredibly ambitious film recreates a worn down world of comedy from the inside out. The film is not about comedy or performance but about communication and reaching out to the depths of one's soul to find truth. The cast is simply fabulous starting with young British comedian Lee Evans and spanning the comedic generations to a sterling performance from Jerry Lewis as George Fawkes.

     When comic Tommy Fawkes bombs in his big time Las Vegas debut, his father, the legendary comic George Fawkes, steps in to cover for his son. The failure sends Tommy on a journey in search of his comic roots across the Atlantic to Blackpool, England. Tommy learns more than just a few new routines in this odyssey through the world of funnymen. Oliver Platt gives Tommy Fawkes an interesting edge. It is not easy to understand the young comic who has grown up in the shadow of his father's fame. Platt infuses Fawkes with a sense of desperation masked by a lounge comic's coarseness that effectively creates a center for the various players to revolve around. Leslie Caron has some illuminating screen moments as a light into the Fawkes past and Freddie Davies and George Karl are bizarre as the Parker brothers.

     The movie is often very funny, but most of the humor works at being eccentric, and while it is easy to laugh, the laughter is often tinged with a sense of discomfort. Don't let the fact that this is unusual fare spoil the fun. This is a rich tapestry of life on the edge of comedy and comedy on the edge of life. By emphasizing its originality, director Peter Chelsom takes big chances with the material, but that is the genius of the project. The quirky hard edges of the material are softened by the director's respect of his characters. While some of the early set-up may lead to some confusing moments, the detours from straight ahead filmmaking are highly rewarding.  Funny Bones was shot beautifully on location in around the shores of Blackpool, England, a dark and dusty resort decorated with chipped and peeling paint. Creating this world in which these characters can be revealed provides the strong structural base for Funny Bones, albeit somewhat eaten away by rust.

     The laser disc is razor sharp with bright and accurate colors. Details of picture and sound come alive to recreate this wonderful film on video. Funny Bones combines its elements in a delicate balancing act as frenetic sway pole circus act that serves as the film's wild climax. Don't miss this unusual movie!