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UK / USA, 1994 (MIFF 1995)

Director: Peter Chelsom

Much darker and quirkier than his previous film, the director of Hear My Song has cre­ated a truly marvellous comedy that manages to be a wildly comedic tale about the search for comic invention and a blithely twisted medita­tion on the nature of its genius.

There are two types of comedians, those who talk funny—stand-ups with great rehearsed rou­tines—and those who are funny, who have 'funny bones', and Tommy, son of a 'king of comedy', fears that he has neither. Fleeing an excruciat­ingly embarrassing Las Vegas debut (for what is funny that rarely Isn't cruel?) and the shadow of his famous father (played by Jerry Lewis in a caustically self-referential performance), he arrives in Blackpool England, comedy capital of the world (move over Melbourne) intent on buy­ing himself an act. Interviewing an outrageous cavalcade of vaudeville performers, he stumbles upon an eccentric circus family who are from true laughing stock, with a son (the fantastically talented Lee Evans) whose off-beat originality is both burden and blessing.

Awesome in its captivating comic complexi­ties and manic plot machinations, the film walks a tightrope of madcap entertainment and the potentially violent emotions that lie in wait just the other side of slapstick. A brilliant heir to the legacy of Ealing Studios (where it was shot), Funny Bones is old-time burlesque with a decided­ly surrealist bent.

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