Monday, September 02, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Every Which Way But Loose (1978) ***½

PG, 114 min.
Director: James Fargo
Writer: Jeremy Joe Kronsburg
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Geoffrey Lewis, Sondra Locke, Beverly D’Angelo, Ruth Gordon, Roy Jenson, James McEachin, Bill McKinney, William O’Connell, John Quade, Dan Vadis, Gregory Walcott, Hank Worden, Walter Barnes, George Chandler, Manis the Orangutan 

My Dad has been gone for over two years now, and I keep on running into movies that he gave to me. “Every Which Way But Loose” was the rare comedy from Clint Eastwood, but it was a comedy done only as Eastwood would do one. It’s laid back, spontaneous, populated by simple (but intelligent) blue collar characters, who have a basic morality and a near naiveté about the world in which they live. This one also happens to have an orangutan as one of the main characters.

This comedy sneaks up on you. It’s a little bit country and a little bit comedy and a little bit conservative and a little bit progressive. It’s also evolves into something more funny than it seems at first. It’s not just a movie about a guy with an ape. For one thing, all the protagonists are given equal time. Yes, Eastwood is the main character, and the story follows his pursuit of the burgeoning singer/con artist played by Sondra Locke; but his mother, played by Ruth Gordon, has her own storyline about trying to reinstate her driver’s license. His brother, played by longtime collaborator Geoffrey Lewis, also gets his own romance with the extremely likeable and funny Beverly D’Angelo.

Eastwood’s truck driver/street fighter Philo Beddoe gathers a collection of enemies in his pursuit of the less than desirable trickster played by Locke, which sets the stage for a series of one-upmanship vignettes that has him taking on other street fighters, two off-duty cops and a motorcycle gang. Gordon’s best scene is when she takes on the gang from her porch with a giant shotgun.

There isn’t really much purpose to a movie like this other than to watch these fun characters do their thing. The key to that is the casting, and Eastwood knows very well how to surround himself with talent. It’s great to see Lewis in a non-villainous role. It seems the character actors that are always “type” cast as villains are usually referred to by their co-stars as really nice people. I think Lewis is probably a great guy to have as a friend and he feels natural here as Eastwood’s fun loving brother. I didn’t often like Locke in Eastwood’s movies, but here she plays the role of backstabbing wench pretty well. “Every Which Way But Loose” isn’t a great movie in substance, but it is a great one in execution. Thanks, Dad.

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