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Movie Review: I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!

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After seeing Paul Mazursky's Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice I felt inclined to see I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! since it is also written by Mazursky. Unfortunately for me, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! is not nearly as good, or humorous, as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Sure, it has its moments but it's just not great.

Peter Sellers stars as Harold, a lawyer in the late 1960s. Harold is a square and he knows it, but it doesn't matter to him (at least not yet). He is engaged to a woman named Joyce, and he is very successful in his profession. He doesn't know it yet, but his life is about to change.

One day at the office, Harold's mother (Jo Van Fleet) comes rushing in weeping about how a man had just died. Harold thinks it's his father, but is relieved to find out it's just the butcher. It is important to his mother that Harold attends the funeral, and brings his brother along. Harold's brother is a hippie living in Venice Beach, and Harold hasn't seen him in three months but he agrees.

When the day of the funeral arrives, Harold goes to pick up his brother Herbie (David Arkin) at his apartment. Upon his arrival Harold is met by Herbie and Herbie’s lady friend Nancy (the lovely Leigh Taylor-Young, who you may recognize as Shirl in Soylent Green). Herbie looks ridiculous, as he's dressed in traditional Hopi Indian funeral garb and this upsets Harold greatly. This is not something a normal person wears to a Catholic funeral, but there's nothing he can do.

The funeral is one of the more humorous scenes in the film. The hearse drivers are on strike, so there is no way to get the body from the funeral home to the cemetery. Harold is the only person in attendance with a station wagon, and it's a loaner that he had to take after his Lincoln was hit. The wagon is painted up and down with rainbows and peace signs; it's really a sight. Harold volunteers to transport the body, and the procession goes on its way. Unfortunately, Harold gets pulled over and loses the procession and ends up driving around for hours trying to find the cemetery.

After the whole funeral ordeal is finally over, Harold heads home. On his way he sees Nancy hitchhiking. Harold feels that it is very dangerous for a single girl to be hitchhiking; there are too many sex maniacs out and about so he offers to give her a lift. Nancy doesn't really have anywhere to go, so he takes her back to his place to crash on his couch.

The next day while Harold is out picking up his Lincoln, Nancy bakes him some "special" brownies as a showing of appreciation for his hospitality. When Harold returns, he finds his parents and fiancé waiting. The five of them head in, and Joyce finds the brownies. No one is aware of the groovy ingredient, so they all indulge themselves to their fill. Of course they're all high as a kite now, and go out to enjoy some miniature golf. It is now that Harold realizes he has fallen in love with Nancy, and becomes a hippie himself in order to prove it.

Peter Sellers does a decent job as Harold, but I’ve seen him put in much better performances (Dr. Strangelove). I thought that Jo Van Fleet was a bit over the top; she made it way too obvious that she was a Jewish mother by pulling out so many stereotypes.

I think that this film was probably a lot funnier when it was produced, but it hasn't aged well. The majority of the jokes don't work any more, and a lot of the references would only be funny during that time period. It is directed by Hy Averback, who spent the majority of his career directing television shows, both before and after I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!. If you were around in the sixties, or just wish you were (like myself) then I would recommend it. However if you are not one of the aforementioned, then you probably won't enjoy this film, as it has no deep meaning that is relevant to today. My other problem with the film is the ending. The ending is very confusing, and you never are really able to figure out whether what just happened was real or an illusion.

Grade: C+

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  • http://www.myspace.com/x15 Douglas Mays

    I Love You, Alice B!!!! A great film as a time piece and blasting cap for cultural movement of the time.

    You got it though…as great cinema it doesn’t hold up. But that is not always the purpose of film. As far as social impact goes, it does hold up.

    As art icon catagory, it is a film that deserves recognition. It cracked me up at the time. And take a look at what has happened on earth since then…So yeah, your C+ rating is about right. Even back then I gave it a C+. But that doesn’t take away from it’s value.

    Boob, Tad, Carnel and Alice? Weazy Rider?

    Shut up, D!!
    DM