Volume > Issue > Memories of Great Comedies from the Past

Memories of Great Comedies from the Past


By Robert E. Lauder | September 1986

The viewing of movies has a built-in relativity to it. If your taste favors Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, or even Woody Allen, then much that is presently playing will look bleak to you; if many of the so-called comedies that have appeared in recent years sadden you, then some­thing a cut above the usual movie is going to have a special appeal. I think that explains my reaction to Ivan Reitman’s Legal Eagles starring Robert Redford and Debra Winger. This is not one of the great comedy thrillers, but it is a small piece of good news about a genre that is near disappear­ance. Redford and Winger as a team are not Spen­cer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn or Cary Grant and Irene Dunne or William Powell and Myrna Loy. But they do play well together and provide some pleasant, entertaining movie moments.

It would not be fair to contrast Reitman with past directors such as Hitchcock or Hawks or Capra or even Leo McCarey just because Reitman’s film has a superficial resemblance to some of the work of these men. At best Legal Eagles is an echo of the best work of these directors. Viewers may get a sense of déjà vu because parts of Legal Eagles seem to be borrowed from older films; however, Reit­man does a good job in keeping the film moving, even though the plot is neither as clever or exciting or intelligent as it might be.

Near the beginning of Legal Eagles, Manhat­tan Assistant District Attorney Tom Logan (Red­ford) is on the other side of the courtroom from Laura Kelly (Winger), a zealous criminal lawyer. After Logan is fired, he and Kelly team up to defend Chelsea Dearden (Daryl Hannah), who is first charged with stealing a valuable painting and eventually charged with murder. Because their ap­proaches to practicing law are worlds apart, Logan and Kelly don’t work together smoothly, but they do so quite humorously. There is never any doubt that they will not only find who the murderer is but also find one another romantically.

Supporting actors Brian Dennehy, Terence Stamp, and John McMartin do adequately what lit­tle they have to do, and Daryl Hannah, as a sort of contemporary flower child, is adequate. The movie is Redford’s and Winger’s to save and they do so admirably. While Legal Eagles is not quite as good as we might have hoped, it is good enough for movie fans to donate a few hours to it at a local theater.

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