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  Barefoot Executive, The The Typical Viewer?
Year: 1971
Director: Robert Butler
Stars: Kurt Russell, Joe Flynn, Harry Morgan, Wally Cox, Heather North, Alan Hewitt, Hayden Rorke, John Ritter, Jack Bender, Tom Anfinsen, Tristram Coffin, Eve Brent, James Flavin, Sandra Gould, Iris Adrian, Robert Shayne, Raffles
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Steven Post (Kurt Russell) works in the mail room of the United Broadcasting Company, but has big dreams of how he can get ahead in the television business. His girlfriend is Jennifer (Heather North) who also works for the company, and tonight they are holding a gathering for selected members of the public to gauge their reaction to a new show. Trouble is, everyone knows it is pretty awful, but no one wants to stand up to Vice President Francis X. Wilbanks (Joe Flynn), never mind his barking boss E.J. Crampton (Harry Morgan), so the network is onto a loser once again - if only there was someone who knew what would be a hit...

In between Dexter Reilly movies Kurt Russell made this light satire on the idiot box for Disney, so light in fact that the sardonic nature of its comedy might have been hard to spot. Really this was one of the studio's cute animal movies, but no, Kurt wasn't playing the animal, in this case it was a chimp called Raffles who belongs to Jen now that his previous owners have had to leave New York for San Francisco and cannot take him with them. It is Raffles (as himself, apparently) who has an uncanny knack of picking the shows that will be hits.

Steve finds this out when he goes over for dinner at Jen's apartment and finds the chimp hogging the television all night, and is frustrated because he doesn't think much of the ape's taste. However, the next day at the office, he notices the viewing figures for last night and realises that Raffles has picked every one of the top three shows to watch, and it dawns on Steve that he may have stumbled upon a formula for making it big in the business, smuggling his new friend into screening rooms and taking note of his reaction to pick the network's winners.

In fact, you could say that Steve gets carried away, as he goes as far as switching the programming to prove that he knows what he's talking about, but never letting on that it's the chimp who is feeding him his best material. At first he is sacked, but the next day, when the show is a massive hit, he is rehired and given a better post, making his way up the corporate ladder with alarming speed until he has taken Wilbanks' job. Now, there's a germ of an idea here in that a supposedly dumb animal can decide what the American public wanted to watch better than they could themselves, but the film steadfastly refuses to do anything with it.

They don't even do very much with the chimp, leaving him to sit in his chair in front of the screen in rapt attention, clapping when something he approves of appears. You might expect with Disney he would at least end up riding Steve's motorbike, but nope, all he does is watch T.V. This leaves the sillier comedy to the humans, especially the more mature members of the cast, culminating in Wilbanks and his wheezing chauffeur (Wally Cox) stuck on a high ledge with those on the ground believing they are staging a joint suicide bid. The reason they are on that ledge is to find out what Steve has in his apartment that is giving him such inspiration, as the lad has actually stolen Raffles from Jen and replaced him with an impostor; our supposed hero does a lot that is less than admirable and it's testament to Russell's fresh faced charm that he carries this off. There was a keener idea in this somewhere, but Disney didn't quite have the guts to go through with it. Music by Robert F. Brunner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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