Newest Reviews
Other Lamb, The
Every Time I Die
Lynn + Lucy
Honest Thief
Blood and Money
Rose: A Love Story
Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made
Om Dar-B-Dar
Silencing, The
J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs and the Church of SubGenius
Dick Johnson is Dead
Legacy of Lies
I Am Woman
Alien Addiction
Dare, The
South Terminal
Little Monsters
Yield to the Night
My Zoe
Young Playthings
End of Summer
Times of Harvey Milk, The
Perfectly Normal Family, A
Honeymoon Phase, The
One Summer
Bird Island
Devil to Pay, The
Lost in London
Divorce Italian Style
Salon Kitty
Newest Articles
Confessions of a Porn Star: Adult Material on DVD
They're Still Not Sure It is a Baby: Eraserhead on Blu-ray
Werewolves are Real: Dog Soldiers on Digital
Rose: A Love Story - Producers April Kelley and Sara Huxley Interview
Phone Phreak: 976-EVIL on Blu-ray
Living the Nightmare: Dementia on Blu-ray
Becky and The Devil to Pay: Ruckus and Lane Skye Interview
Big Top Bloodbath: Circus of Horrors on Blu-ray
A Knock on the Door at 4 O'clock in the Morning: The Strangers on Blu-ray
Wives of the Skies: Honey Lauren Interview
To Catch a Thief: After the Fox on Blu-ray
Tackling the Football Film: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery on Blu-ray
Film Noir's Golden Couple: This Gun for Hire on Blu-ray
The Doctor Who Connection: Invasion on Blu-ray
Hill's Angles: Benny Hill and Who Done It? on Blu-ray
Big Willie Style: Keep It Up Downstairs on Blu-ray
Walt's Vault: 5 Cult Movies on Disney+
Paradise Lost: Walkabout on Blu-ray
Buster Makes Us Feel Good: Buster Keaton - 3 Films (Volume 3) on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 3 - Don't Go Away - I Could Do with a Bit of Cheer Now!
What Use is Grief to a Horse? Equus on Blu-ray
For God's Sake Strap Yourselves Down: Flash Gordon on 4K UHD Collector's Edition
Party Hard: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 2 - Your Faces are All Blurred!
Eve Knew Her Apples: The Lady Eve on Blu-ray
  Hardly Working Saturday Night Jerry?!
Year: 1981
Director: Jerry Lewis
Stars: Jerry Lewis, Susan Oliver, Roger C. Carmel, Deanna Lund, Harold J. Stone, Steve Franken, Buddy Lester, Leonard J. Stone, Jerry Lester, Billy Barty, Alex Henteloff, Britt Leach, Peggy Mondo, Amy Krug, Stephen Baccus
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bo Hooper (Jerry Lewis) is a circus clown left unemployed when the big top closes down and forced to live with his kindly sister Claire Trent (Susan Oliver). Much to the annoyance of his drunkenly obnoxious brother-in-law Robert (Roger C. Carmel). Aided by Claire, Bo tries his hand at a number of new jobs, including gas-station attendant, glass factory worker, bartender at a disco/strip bar and sushi chef (donning buck teeth and goofy glasses for a cringe-worthy Japanese impression), but his natural klutziness keeps causing calamity. Finally, Bo lands a promising job at the postal service, but inadvertently outrages his uptight boss (Leonard J. Stone) by dating his daughter, single mom Millie (Deanna Lund).

Following his notorious, unreleased The Day the Clown Cried (1972), comedian Jerry Lewis did not make another film for almost ten years. His eventual comeback picture, Hardly Working was actually completed in 1979, but distributors Twentieth Century Fox seemed reluctant to release it until the film became a box-office success across Europe. To everyone’s surprise, it was a big hit in America too, proving audiences really had missed Jerry Lewis, even though critics trashed it mercilessly. Roger Ebert went so far as to call it “one of the worst movies to achieve commercial release in this country.”

Ebert overstates the case, but Hardly Working does not get off to the best start. A montage of past Lewis classics, including The Bellboy (1960), Cinderfella (1960), The Errand Boy (1961), Who’s Minding the Store? (1963) and The Patsy (1964), plays like an ode to self-love, while much of what unfolds has the ambience of a second-rate sitcom, underlining how crucial the production values at the old studio-era Paramount were to his flights of fancy. The circus scenes are steeped in sadness with Jerry - wearing his old clown makeup from 3 Ring Circus (1954) - playing a slightly embittered, middle-aged version of the accident-prone man-child he used to be.

“What I want is a direction, a purpose” says Bo early on, which seems to be the film’s dominant theme (tellingly the opening credits read: “Jerry Lewis is Hardly Working”), although the plot plays pretty similar to earlier Lewis movies about hapless young men proving their worth to various women, family members and authority figures. Except the problem is, Jerry isn’t a young man here, he’s fifty-something. By this stage, new talents like Steve Martin were bringing an even zanier edge to screen comedy and beating Lewis at his own game. Hardly Working unfolds in a leisurely, episodic fashion with pratfalls and routines that hark back to past classics.

A number of gags fall flat, including Bo’s joyride aboard a blimp (so brief, you wonder why he bothered), parodies of then-current television commercials, digs at President Jimmy Carter, and the legendary disco dream sequence that finds our hero decked out in a white suit, John Travolta style as he busts some crazy moves with dance partner (and real-life wife) Sandee “Sam” Pitnick. Others are vintage Lewis, such as the “Dunkin’ Donuts” routine with old sparring partner Leonard J. Stone, a hilarious argument with an automated voice on an answering machine, and his appearance in drag as a bizarrely accented female tennis player (“You’re sweet, pussycat. You fool around?”). Irwin Allen fans will likely recognise Deanna Lund from Land of the Giants but the film also features the last acting performance from Bob May, who played the robot in Lost in Space.

Combined with Morton Stevens’ nostalgic score, the supporting turns from Lewis regulars Susan Oliver, Buddy Lester and Steve Franken add an air of cosy familiarity that might be why audiences warmed to this. And yet it’s undercut by a whiff of misanthropy that suggests Jerry is equally fed up with the world that has no place for his brand of showbiz. Weirdest of all is the climax, wherein Bo dons clown makeup to perform an act of self-destruction, blowing the only job he was ever good at just to make a point. Do folks in Florida really call the cops when they see mail men dressed as clowns? Equally unsettling, the closing shot suggests Millie has abandoned her young son (who loathes Bo) to run away with our hero. Guess there is only room for one overgrown little boy in this substitute mom’s life.

Lewis was unable to capitalise on Hardly Working’s unexpected popularity in either his proposed sequel, Hardly Working Attacks Star Wars (?!) or an intriguing old folks home comedy intended to star a host of aging Hollywood greats which he once described as “a geriatric Animal House (1978). His eventual follow-up, the portmanteau sketch comedy Smorgasbord (1983) (also known as Cracking Up), was mostly ignored but his outstanding turn in Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983) initiated a run of cult film and stage appearances that won great acclaim.

Click here to watch a clip

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 4837 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Paul Smith
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg


Last Updated: