Sidney Poitier Richard Combs - Essay

Richard Combs

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

For a while, in A Piece of the Action, director Sidney Poitier seemed about to become Frank Capra reborn in the unlikely venue of bland, middle-of-the-road, caper-cum-comedy vehicles. But that film's agreeable mixture of improving sentiments and loose performance comedy now seems to have got lost in the stampede to repeat the box-office bonanza of Stir Crazy…. But Hanky Panky has not only forsaken the casualness that was so infectious about both those films, it doesn't even have a comedy pairing to carry its aggressive concoction of bad jokes, mistimed jokes and just plain non-jokes….

Some American reviews have suggested that this is a belly-laugh variation on [Alfred Hitchcock's] North by Northwest, though given its mystic vision of the Grand Canyon leading to a secret government testing ground, one might as reasonably say that it is Hitchcock as strained through [Steven Spielberg's] Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Nothing like hommage, parody or pastiche, at any rate, ever infects the garbled anonymity of the film's telling, and it seems most likely that the makers simply grabbed at the first borrowings that came to mind. The plot … rushes hither and you at the slightest excuse without ever adding up to very much. Even McGuffins are supposed to make more sense than this.

Richard Combs, in his review of "Hanky Panky," in Monthly Film Bulletin (copyright © The British Film Institute, 1982), Vol. 49, No. 584, September, 1982, p. 199.