Good Times

Director: William Friedkin     
Sonny and Cher, George Sanders, Norman Alden

Anchor Bay Video is one of the best video labels currently on the market, re-releasing restored cult movies (letterboxed when possible) that have been long out of print or never even released previously on video. Good Times is one of the latter, and also, in my opinion, qualifies as an "unknown movie". Having faded into obscurity since its theatrical release, it comes out now as a fascinating time-capsule. But the movie itself? I wasn't expecting much, because it's apparent it's now only being released due to publicity over Sonny's death. (I've never even seen it scheduled on television.) But what a surprise! - Good Times is a sweet, funny little movie that's due long-deserved cult status.

I've never really seen anything of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, but from the little that I know of the show, the movie seems to be a warm-up to it. For example, Sonny plays his typical impulsive, naive dolt, and Cher stands by her man while spewing out numerous tongue-in-cheek put-downs of Sonny and his grand ambitions in comedy sketches with various themes. And, like the TV show, Sonny and Cher play themselves between these comedy sketches. Heck, the movie was made by ABC's theatrical department, making the production look like it was made-for-TV (though with slightly more polish). And, like the TV show, there really isn't one plot - just an excuse for irreverent comedy sketches and musical numbers.

Similarities, production values, and paper-thin plot aside, the main thing is if it's entertaining. And it certainly is. As stated before, Sonny and Cher play themselves, and Sonny announces to Cher that the two of them have just been offered a movie vehicle. Cher doesn't want to do it, but Sonny manages to convinces her to come along and meet the producer (Sanders). The script they are shown is so awful, even Sonny can tell it's bad. Though under contract, the producer gives Sonny ten days to come up with his own vehicle. Over the course of the ten days, Sonny imagines himself and Cher in three different movies. First he imagines himself as "Irving Ringo", an inept sheriff in a High Noon spoof , with Cher plays the can-can girl in love with him. It's a corny, but quite likable segment, with a number of genuine laughs at Sonny's ineptness as a sheriff, and midway through, a knockout musical number with the patrons and can-caners at the saloon. A lot of the gags in this sketch (main and background) and the other two sketches  seem to anticipate Airplane!

Sonny realizes that he'd be terrible as a cowboy, and next imagines himself as a jungle boy, though more like George of the Jungle than Tarzan, naturally. Of course, there are gags with Sonny screaming his own "jungle cry", and the expected falling off vines, but there are a number of original gags to more than compensate. One interesting thing on the sketch is the treatment of animals in the sketch - they are not exactly abused, but perform stuff that you probably wouldn't see in a movie today. For example, Sonny wrestles a lion (not using a stuntman!) quite heavily, leading to an unintended laugh when before the shot ends, we see the lion taking a swipe at Sonny's leg as he walks away! (And before you ask, we don't see clearly if the lion connected or not). As well, we get to see what is possibly the worst "bald wig" in Hollywood history.

Realizing that jungle heroism is not up his vine, Sonny starts to get desperate, with the tension of the upcoming deadline coming up when he talks with Cher. (Cher, meanwhile, has been singing a couple of songs.) Sonny then comes up with a private eye spoof that, though passable, doesn't measure up to the level of the first. Afterwards, he realizes what a lousy husband and friend he has been to Cher since the movie proposal, and is determined to shape up and get out of the producer's contract. As expected, there's a happy ending.

The one thing that I consider really objectionable (besides the private eye sketch, though it's nowhere near terrible) is their singing their trademark, "I Got You Babe" over the opening credits. It's not the song itself (a hit two years earlier), but this particular version; it sung very slowly, and without that faster pace, the song loses some of its charm, and Sonny and Cher don't sound as sincere. They say if it ain't broke, don't fix it - so why did they change it? If I was harder pressed, I might admit that there are one or two songs too many - the film might have been improved by a little tightening. But all the songs past the opening are good in their own right, and viewers who may agree in finding it long can simply stop it for a break between segments, making it a dream for people who have dreamed of placing commercial breaks to their own convenience. It's a smorgasbord that has enough variety to satisfy most anybody wanting a meal in 60s nostalgia.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

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