Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Don't Drink the Water (1969 and 1994)

While on a European vacation during the height of the Cold War, a grouchy New Jersey caterer (originally starring Jackie Gleason, then Woody Allen), his overbearing wife (Estelle Parsons, Julie Kavner), and daughter are trapped behind the Iron Curtain, accused of espionage, and forced to hideout in a U.S. embassy run by a feckless ambassador (Ted Bessell, Michael J. Fox) while targeted by an overzealous party member. Allen's play, first filmed in 1969, is hilarious fun with Gleason's mugging, Parson's ditziness, and one of the funniest collections of Woody's one-liners until it peters out towards the end. Unsatisfied with the results, Allen directed and starred in a made for TV remake which contained unnecessary rewrites and a lackluster cast which doesn't match up to the original.
1969 version: *** out of ****
1994 version: ** out of ****