Garry Marshall Howard Thompson - Essay

Howard Thompson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

This tired, aimlessly frisky comedy ["How Sweet It Is!"] is about as sweet as a dill pickle….

Unfortunately, what begins as a bouncy frolic about a fortyish couple involved with some teen-age girls on a European tour starts meandering, then flounders in a welter of stale gags, and finally does an inane nosedive.

The basic idea, in the screen play by Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson, is not bad, the joke being that [Mom and Pop] aren't getting any younger and can't communicate with their teen-age son, with his hippie haircut and a mind of his own. Europe is supposed to change or at least clarify things….

[Once] the picture plunks down on the Italian Riviera, or Hollywood with some post-card backdrops, it airily goes to pieces….

The volume increases, in some broad, sexual teasing that dates back to "Up in Mabel's Room." And the grand finale, a deafening scramble in a bordello, is as vulgar, infantile and unfunny as it can be….

There is one genuinely funny bit of business in an early scene when [Mom], sporting dark glasses and a compound hangover, gropes her way aboard an ocean liner. The real humor ends about then and there. Lady, you should have missed the boat.

Howard Thompson, "'How Sweet It Is!'" in The New York Times (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 22, 1968 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews, The New York Times Company, 1971, p. 3780).

[How Sweet It Is!, a] febrile farce, betrays its videosyncrasies wherever it meanders…. [A] magazine photographer named Grif finds that he cannot communicate with his hippie dippy son. When the boy decides to tour Europe, his meddle-class mother … decides to fill the generation gap by taking a house in France for the summer. Togetherness swiftly degenerates into apartheid.

The boy sulks, pop takes up with a willowy tour guide, and mom settles down with a handsome French millionaire. Like all TV sitcoms, How Sweet It Is! culminates in a stock comedy scene. This time it takes place in an Italian bordello, where too many kooks spoil the brothel….

This is the kind of comedy that calls for gales of canned laughter on television—which is really the only kind that canned comedy deserves.

"'How Sweet It Is!'" in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc. 1968), Vol. 92, No. 11, September 13, 1968, p. 99.