The Man With One Red Shoe
Director: Stan Dragoti
Cast: Tom Hanks, Dabney Coleman, Lori Singer
Though this web site is about movies - unknown movies,
to be specific - I hope that you don't think that my one and only
interest is unknown movies. Like you, there are a number of things in
this life of ours that I pursue because they interest me. One thing I
like to do is to step outside of my apartment building and take a walk
around my city. Another thing that I enjoy doing is picking up a book
or a magazine and treating myself to a good read. Though if you were to
examine those and other leisure time habits that I have, you will see a
pattern after some time. There are some routes around my city that I
walk around again and again. And there are some books and magazines
that while I have already read before, I enjoy picking up and reading
once again. I am mentioning these repeated so you can understand and
relate to what I am about to say about movies - namely that there are
things about movies that I like seeing over and over again. There are
some certain basic plots that I don't get tired of. I like movies about
tough cops, for instance. When I see for the thousandth time a cop
turning in his gun and badge to his superior, I don't say, "Not again!"
- instead, I am tickled, knowing the cop will soon kick some major ass.
But I will admit that there are some certain movie formulas that I am
getting tired of seeing. I am getting tired of movies that team up a
pair of mismatched individuals (a.k.a. "buddy" films), for one thing.
It helps if the tough
cop formula is also injected into this retelling, but otherwise I have
seen this formula so many times that new screenwriters who try this
formula don't seem to have any idea on how to freshen the formula up.
Another cinematic formula that I am tired of seeing is
the "rival businesses" formula, usually involving some underdogs
running some sort of business that is threatened by a more powerful
business that's run by cruel and snotty individuals. In the past I have
least two examples of this formula (Zoo Radio
and Odd Jobs),
and hopefully in those two reviews I revealed my tiredness of this
old-as-the-hills formula. But there is one certain cinematic formula
that displeases me much more than the combined loathing I have for
rival business and buddy films. That formula is the one that concerns
mistaken identities. Several years ago, when I reviewed the so-called
I mentioned some reasons why this formula bothers me each and every
time I see it. Mostly I mentioned reasons concerning the formula
variation of two people looking exactly the same. A look-alike impostor
in real life might fool people for a short time, but for a long time?
Forget it! It relies on the wobbly cinematic crutch that people are too
stupid to notice the many small but glaring differences that would come
with the charade. But there is another kind of mistaken identity movie
that bothers me just as much as the look-alike variation. That
variation is when there isn't another look-alike character, but an
innocent person is mistaken to be a completely different kind of person
than they really are. One example of this formula is with the 1997 Bill
Murray movie The
Man Who Knew Too Little.
In that movie, Murray plays a kind of dimwit who is repeatedly mistaken
for a super spy by various characters scene after scene. Movies that
follow this kind of mistaken identity plot not only have to make the
observing characters too stupid to see the obvious truth, but they are
essentially playing the same tired joke over and over and over again
until the movie is padded out to feature-film length.
I suppose it is possible that screenwriters could figure
out a fresh spin on this whole mistaken identity idea, but as it is,
the situation is like with "buddy" films - screenwriters nowadays seem
clueless as to how to enliven these two particular genres. Anyway, you
have probably guessed that the movie I am reviewing here - The Man With One Red
- is a comedy that is hinged around the idea of mistaken identity. And
you are probably confused as to why I am reviewing it. Well, although I
have reviewed in the past a mistaken identity movie about look-alikes,
I wanted the chance again to vent about the similar premise of people
mistaken to be different people than they really are. Also, this movie
would possibly give me the chance to vent about its star Tom Hanks, an
actor that for some reason has always rubbed me the wrong way. Hanks
plays Richard Drew, a violinist who gets caught up in the rivalry
between two CIA bigwigs in Washington D.C., Ross (Charles Durning, An
Enemy Of The People) and Cooper (Coleman, Bite
Cooper has his eye on the agency's leadership position that is
currently held by Ross, and decides to play dirty in order to get it.
He decides to make it appear that Ross is responsible for a bungled
operation that's just happened overseas. But Ross knows Cooper's
scheme, so knowing that Cooper has planted bugs in his home, he stages
a conversation at home with loyal agent Brown (Edward Hermann, Gilmore Girls).
Cooper hears Ross tell Brown that someone is coming to Washington D.C.
that will clear his name to the investigating Senate, and to pick up
this individual at the
airport. Unknown to Cooper, Ross tells Brown to pick someone random at
the airport, and at the airport Brown picks the just arriving Richard
after seeing Richard's eye-catching mismatched shoes due to an apparent
prank (I think) played by his friend Morris (Jim Belushi, Real Men).
Brown then makes a gesture to make it appear the innocent Richard is
the contact, which then gets Cooper and his agents to shadow Richard
everywhere and start a big investigation on this mysterious person.
Cooper also gets Maddy (Singer, Footloose), one
of his female agents, to
meet and pretend to be attracted to Richard so she can spend time with
him and aid in Cooper to try to make sense of who this mysterious spy
is and what he might be scheming.
Although the plot of The Man With One Red
may use the tired plot device of mistaken identity, it could still have
worked. I say that because this movie is a remake of a 1972 French
movie (Le Grand
Blond Avec Une Chaussure Noire)
that was apparently popular enough to warrant a sequel two years later.
But like most American remakes of foreign films, this one falls flat.
It doesn't take long in watching this remake to pinpoint the first of
one of its big problems, and that happens to be that no character in
the movie engages us well enough to make us sympathetic towards them.
Obviously, we are not on the side of Cooper and his agents, because
they are both trying to discredit Ross and end up complicating
Richard's life. But Ross doesn't seem to care that his scheming to
screw up Cooper's dirty dealings is putting an innocent man in
jeopardy. Ross' loyal agent Brown does start to show concern as the
charade goes on, but he ends up doing some dirty dealings himself that
evaporate our sympathies to him. While the character of Maddy, as
expected, falls in love with Richard as she tries to get close to him,
her change of heart doesn't erase the fact that she was earlier fooling
him for personal gain. It also doesn't help that her falling in love
happens abruptly instead of slowly building. You might think that you
might have some feelings for Richard, the innocent caught in this
extremely sticky situation. But it's revealed that he has had an affair
with Paula (Carrie Fisher, Star Wars),
who happens to be the wife of his best friend Morris. Morris,
incidentally, is a pretty dim-witted fellow, and his stupidity isn't
exactly very endearing. Also, he is shown to be a very possessive man
when it comes to his wife, and when he comes across evidence that his
wife and his best friend are more than just friends, he grabs a gun and
heads to Richard's apartment so he can shoot Richard.
The stupid and unsympathetic characters in The Man With One Red
are a real big problem, but there's one greater problem the movie has
that by itself sinks the ship. And that problem is that the movie
simply isn't that funny. In fact, I only (mildly) chuckled at one of
the many attempts at humor that are made. Looking back at the notes I
made while watching the movie, I pinpointed two main ways that the
humor of the movie is botched. The first of these has to do with humor
that simply breaks credibility. For example, Cooper's agents search
Richard's apartment while he is out, and when Richard returns home and
turns on his bathroom sink's faucet, the shower next to the sink starts
working. I could accept this in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, where things are
clearly far from reality. I could even accept this in live action with
something like Laurel & Hardy, which maintain a slapstick tone from
beginning to end. But the general tone of this movie is not slapstick
and is more serious, so such goofiness seems out of place. The second
way the humor is botched in this movie is with a seemingly lazy
attitude. An example of this is when Richard has to go to the dentist.
Cooper's agents think he's going to pass information to another agent
there, so they get to the dentist's office ahead of him. Once they are
there, how do they take over the office? Ho ho, by spraying knock out
formula in the face of the receptionist! Is that the best they could
think of? A more imaginative screenwriter would have had the agents
revealing themselves to the receptionist and the dentist, threatening
them with jail unless they cooperate with the agents and get the
information from the soon arriving Richard. This could have altered the
behavior of the receptionist and the dentist towards Richard, and could
have been very funny. But here, as with many of the other attempts at
humor, the movie shows a lack of zany spirit and insight to how funny
ordinary people can be in extraordinary situations.
What's really surprising is that the movie was written
by Robert Klane, who earlier in his career wrote hilarious movies like Where's Poppa?
and Fire Sale.
Somewhere along the way he lost his spark, which explains movies like Folks! and Walk Like A Man.
While Klane certainly has to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for
the failure of The
Man With One Red Shoe
- because of its unlikable characters and dead-on-arrival humor - not
everything is to blame because of him. There are clear signs that the
story was tampered with by various individuals between the time the
finished script was handed in and when the movie was released. The
whole red shoe thing is one glaring question, being that it is never
really properly explained why Richard was wearing mismatched shoes when
he arrived at the airport. Also, Morris makes a reference to "senators"
at one point, which gets the overhearing Cooper think Morris is
referring to the investigating Senate. He's not, but what exactly
Morris was referring to is never explained. There are a lot more
puzzling things in the story (like Maddy abruptly falling in love with
Richard), but I won't get into them more, except to repeat my belief
that a lot of coherence was cut out. Two
film editors are credited, which suggests the movie may have had some
problems in its post-production phase. However, a longer cut would
likely have aggravated another problem the movie has. Director Stan
Dragoti (who earlier did Love At First Bite)
puts no energy in his movie. Scene after scene unfolds with no feeling
of the situation building in craziness. There is more often than not a
matter-of-fact feeling, a tone of seeming disinterest. Sitting in stony
silence (except for that one aforementioned mild chuckle), I couldn't
help but think: If the director has seemingly no interest in this
situation, why should we in the audience be expected to have any?
(Posted December 6, 2015)
Reader Jason Borlinghaus wrote in about the "senators" question I had,
explaining that the characters of Morris and Richard in the movie were
on a softball team called The Senators. Thank you for that explanation,
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See also: Bullseye!, Making The Grade, Real