Mel Brooks Jack Kroll - Essay

Jack Kroll

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mel Brooks's "Silent Movie" is a take-off on silent movies, but it also uses the silent movie as a way of getting a fresh angle on today's world. In many ways it's Brooks's best film, less pushy than "Blazing Saddles," less shticky than "Young Frankenstein."… Brooks is one of our few authentic mad comic poets, and his daring to make a movie without spoken dialogue is an audaciously creative act in this bet-hedging time….

The gags as usual vary in quality from gold to zinc, but what makes "Silent Movie" more than a string of gags is the comic sensibility of Brooks. Believe it or not, the master of bad taste becomes almost endearing in this film—as when he pays homage to the good old bump and grind with a pelvic paroxysm by the pneumatic Bernadette Peters. The film's foremost quality is a genuine sweetness of tone as the three maniacs ricochet around contemporary Los Angeles in search of stars and success. Brooks knows that the quality common to the old silent comedies was this rippling rhythm of sweet, silly humanity, and he captures it to a remarkable degree without any camp or condescension.

Jack Kroll, "Funny Business," in Newsweek (copyright 1976 by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), July 12, 1976, p. 69.