Oddly forgotten debut film by Woody Allen’s long time collaborator. Yes it’s an uneven film, but the highlights are great, including an often hysterical performance by Alan Arkin, with excellent support by Austin Pendelton, Madelline Kahn, Wallace Shawn just to name a few.
The concept: a bunch of brilliant but twisted minds who run a think tank with unlimited government money fill their time with odd schemes, like mating a man and a cockroach to build a super race, One bored day they get the idea of unleashing an ‘alien’ on America, just to see what happens. So they bring in small time collage professor Alan Arkin, and proceed to brainwash him into thinking he’s from outer space. Of course it gets out of hand, and they decide to have Simon killed, and the film becomes an odd long chase.
There are sequences that don’t work, the social satire feels a little soft, like it’s pulling its punches, and the ending just sort of peters out without making a lot of sense. But along the way there are some very, very funny lines from Brickman, and brilliant physical comedy bits from Arkin (including enacting 500 million years of evolution in 3 minutes).
Not really a ‘success’ as a film, but still better and smarter than 90% of the comedies Hollywood makes today, and certainly worthy of a better fate than it’s obscurity.