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"Lewis makes the camera a prism to break out the divergent, and even conflicting, strands of his own character." – The New Yorker

Long before Lewis acolyte Eddie Murphy took to playing multiple characters in his films, the man himself gifted the world seven versions of himself in this 1965 classic, the sixth and last of the director's work for Paramount that's come to mark the end of his "classical" auteur period.

Orphaned in the wake of her father's death, 10-year-old Donna stands to inherit $30 million and must decide which of her six uncles – all played by you-know-who – she wants to be her new dad. The scenario gives Lewis a chance to unleash the full range of his comedy, with longer, more narrative-defying set pieces and characters that range from a take on The Nutty Professor's Julius to an embittered, proto-Krusty clown contemptuous of the "squealing brats" he's forced to entertain (his image will later resurface in 1980's Hardly Working). But it's Lewis' seventh turn as the kid's chauffeur, Willard, that proves be the deceptively emotional pivot for this film of curious career transition.

"With The Family Jewels, Lewis seems more willing than ever to acknowledge his own hostility toward being dismissed as a kids' entertainer, and not as a serious artist." – Slant


Print courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences