Friday, February 23, 2024

Stone Face Does Comedy?

This is my entry in the Sixth So Bad It's Good Blogathon host by Taking Up Room


So you're asking: "'Stone Face'?  Who the hell is 'Stone Face'?

Well, a few years ago I did a post on Sylvester Stallone doing two movies (Stone Face Vs. the Russians) which, coincidentally, was for another So Bad It's Good Blogathon. In it I made some jesting comments that Stallone never cracked a smile in his entire career.  I could be wrong.

It's a sure bet that not many have cracked a smile over Stallone's comedy career, however.  I mentioned this to a friend at work the other day while listening to a podcast review of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! that Stallone's was best at comedy when he wasn't trying to do comedy.  Along with Rhinestone, both movies stand as milestones in the dumpster of Stallone's career when he tried to do comedy.  Both movies are ranked among the worst movies of all time. 

As stated in that previously noted review, Stallone has been the "victim" of numerous Razzies (The Golden Raspberry Awards) for worst actor.  I don't always agree with John Wilson, the creator of the award, and many times I think that Wilson just has it in for Stallone.  But then, I like the kinds of movies that Stallone does (at least the ones where he is trying to be a tough guy)

But Stallone as a comedy star?  Not exactly the best career decision.  That said, both of these movies are entertaining in their own right.  Don't think that just because I am being a little critical of his comedy career that I don't like them in their own context as Stallone films. But I still think that Stallone should stick to what he does best, punching bad guys and obnoxious a-holes in the face.  (Which he DOES do in these two films, just not often enough).

Rhinestone and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! were separated by an 8 year string of the kind of movies most of us come to expect from Stallone (including the two I reviewed in the previously mentioned post). During that time we also got Cobra, Lock Up and Tango and Cash, all pretty good Stallone tough guy movies.

Since Stallone has famously disassociated himself from Rhinestone, you would have thought maybe he'd be a little reluctant to delve into another comedy.  And maybe he was.  But here's a tidbit for you.  At the time of Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were in an intense rivalry for box office status.  The reason that Stallone wanted to do Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! was because he wanted to put one over on Schwarzenegger because he thought the The Governator really wanted the role.  It turns out that Arnold got Stallone to do it on purpose by just pretending to be interested (as he has pointed out in several interviews, post film).  

So is Stallone actually funny (or at least believably funny) as a comedy star? You have to watch to find out.  





Rhinestone (1984):

(Note: In the opening credits of this film it says it is based on the Glen Campbell song "Rhinestone Cowboy". If you know the song, you'll probably think they should have added "loosely" before the word "based"...)

 The scene is New York City.  Home of one of the biggest country music venues in the nation. 

Or at least in the mind of it's owner, Freddie Ugo (Ron Liebman).  Ugo is a slimeball, prominently foreshadowed by his first line in the movie.  He arrives in a diamond studded limousine where an employee opens his door and greets him with a "Good evening, Mr. Ugo".

"It's always a good evening when you're rich, kid."

Appearing at his nightclub is Jake Farris (Dolly Parton).  She struggles through her nightly set, having to share the stage with Ugo's "amateur night" which includes whatever new sensation that he can find to get him even richer.  Tonight it is Elgart Brunson (Russ {or also Rusty}Buchanan, who was actually a decent singer. He was involved with several bands in the 70's and 80's.).  Elgart plays a song he wrote about a girlfriend who died in a horrible way. And he sings horribly himself. (Kudos to Buchanan for pulling it off.  This is one of the funnier parts of this film.)

Ugo has a contract with Jake to appear at his nightclub, but Jake wants out.  Ugo, never one to miss an opportunity to be a sleazeball, tells her she is committed to the contract, but he could be convinced to null it under the right circumstances.  Jake tells him, rather impetuously, that she could turn anybody into a country star in two weeks, and Ugo takes her up on the bet. If she succeeds, he will tear up the contract.

On the other hand, if she fails, she has to sign on for another 5 years.  And she has to go to bed with him.  (I told you he never misses an opportunity to be a scumbag. I mean, just in case you as the audience, miss the obvious, look at where is eyes go when he is chatting with Jake.  Her eyes are a little farther up, Freddie...)

And he gets to pick the unwitting victim that Jake will have to miraculously turn into a star. Enter stereotypical abrasive New York cabbie, Nick Martinelli (Sylvester Stallone). Nick is in the process of delivering a Japanese tourist group to a spot they didn't even know they wanted to go. They started out for a sushi bar, but Nick convinces them to change their minds, (and not necessarily willingly...)

Backed into a corner and unwilling to sleep with Ugo (even if it was just "sleeping"), Jake finds herself saddled with a man who wouldn't know the difference between a honky tonk and a Tonka truck. And has to find a way to not only get him acclimated to the country music scene, but squeeze out a modicum of talent that will get her the win in the bet.

Of course, the fly in the ointment is Nick doesn't even like country music. Or hillbilly lifestyle as we find out.  Because in an effort to get Nick into country music shape, Jake takes him back to her hometown in backwater Tennessee.

Talk about a fish out of water.  Here's your typical brash New York City Italian dropped in the middle of hillbilly heaven (or hell, depending on your point of view.) Jake introduces Nick to the down home crowd, her friends and her family in good old back home Leiper's Fork. (And, believe it or not, that's a real town in Tennessee. And was the location for some of the Tennessee portions of this film).

Don't miss the debut of Nick in Tennessee.  He sings "Devil with a Blue Dress" and gets the reaction from the crowd that you'd pretty much expect. So Jake has her work all cut out for her. (Two weeks?  Phttt. Piece of cake...)

Nick is on his way, learning the "proper" way of eating (like mixing your peas and potatoes together, and saving your biscuits for dipping in your gravy). And making new friends, like Jake's former boyfriend, Barnett (Tim Thomerson). But don't mention that name around Jake. Their relationship was not what you might call amicable.

The next time Nick gets in front of a crowd he has improved somewhat. He sings a song called "Drinkenstein". Which you've got to see to believe:

The upshot is Nick needs a little more work (obviously). But ultimately Jake does manage to get Nick into some semblance of cowboy shape.  But is he good enough to take on the rough crowd back in New York City, or good enough to capture the prize of getting Jake out of her contract with sleazy Freddie? Well, that all depends on whether he even makes it to the stage... Because before the movie is over there is one final problem. Jake reveals that she hasn't got the kind of confidence in Nick's new found career, even though he thinks he's hot patootie.

When Jake decides she has to forfeit and goes to Freddie to concede, Nick has to ride out to rescue her, like "a rhinestone cowboy, riding out on a horse in something like a star-spangled rodeo". (Had to justify the "based on" portion of the credits, after all...)

And then he has to win over the audience. But he decides to do it his way.  And his way ends up being a foreshadowing of the future of what country would transform into today. (i.e. rock posing as country.)

This movie is not all as bad as it sounds.  Really.  Is it on the level of, say, Blazing Saddles (a movie I consider tops in comedy)? No. But it will win you over as a decent transformation type film.  If you give it a chance.

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! (1992):

Joe Bomowski (Sylvester Stallone) is your average detective on your average police force in your average big city. (Well, average for gung ho cop movies anyway.)  The movie opens with Joe and his partner, Tony (John Wesley) on a stakeout.  They are awaiting the arrival of "the bad guys" who, as usual, are "always late". And, as usual, when they do arrive, there is a shootout, and as usual, the partner gets shot.  And, as usual, the main cop shows off his impulsive personality by doing some rather impressive shooting of things that shouldn't be victim of his shooting. (He shoots out the chains holding up a sign.  Poor sign.  What did it do to deserve this treatment?)

 After the shoot out we see Joe, frustrated, trying to call his mother.  Mom (Estelle Getty) is packing for a visit and ignores his call because for the last five times she has planned to come visit he has called her to say this is a "bad time for a visit." 

Joe has a romantic interest, his lieutenant in the police force, Gwen (JoBeth Williams). Gwen doesn't really believe him when he tells her that he was trying to call mom.  She thinks there is another woman. (Of course she does).

When Mom finally arrives on the plane we find out why Joe has such an issue with her.  Mom, loving Mom as she is, seems to have spent the entire plane trip talking about her Joey and showing the flight attendants, passengers, and anyone else who will listen, pictures of her son, in diapers. (No, not an adult in diapers, just as a baby. Get your mind out of the gutter...)

While driving her to the apartment, a radio call comes on stating that there is a suicide jumper. (Why is it that many of these cop movies involve a scene with a suicide jumper?  And why do they always seem to play it for laughs?) Of course, Mom has to jump into the fray and try to help.

Mom increasingly becomes annoying (after all, she can't just let Joe continue to live in his untidy apartment, or eat the decidedly less nutritious fare he is used to...) At one point she decides that Joe's gun is too dirty, so she cleans it.  How? With a mixture of Clorox, Ajax and Comet... (No, I don't have any idea whether that combination is lethal, and I doubt whether the writers researched it to find out.  So don't try it at home.)

The gun, of course, is ruined. (I don't know if it really is ruined, but it has to be for this part of the plot to advance, so...) So while Joe is at work, Mom heads out to find her Joey a new gun.  But the pawn shop insists on following the rules.  It will take two weeks before she can actually buy the gun. (It's called a "cooling off" period so you can't just buy a gun and shoot someone on impulse.)  But a customer in the shop wants to be helpful.  The customer (Dennis Burkley) helpfully takes her into the alley where he and his partner have an armory of automatic weapons.  And sells her one.

But the guns were stolen from another set of hoodlums.  Hoodlums who have been watching the two. And they are given the word by their boss to reclaim their merchandise.  Mom witnesses the hit and murder.  Now, since Mom is a material witness to a crime, she is going to have to stay until it's resolution... an extra two or three weeks... Poor Joe.

And Mom, being what mothers are (at least what mothers are in movies, anyway). has Joe's interests at heart.  So she withholds evidence of what she really saw so she can share it with Joe and hopefully get him a promotion, as well as improve his relationship with Gwen.

Much of the rest of the film involves the kind of things that are bound to happen when a overly pampered son (who is highly resistant to the over-pampering) has to TRY to get his mother to let him live his own life, but mom keeps finding ways to help (and he doesn't want the help.  Need?  That's a different story).

It turns out that the gun Mom bought was part of a stash of guns that were supposed to have burned up in a warehouse fire,  And behind it all is the Mr. Big of the movie, a sleazy big shot corporation executive named Parnell (Roger Rees).  Rees has cropped up over the years as a comedic villain or at least an unappealing character.  He was the sheriff of Rottingham in Robin Hood: Men in Tights and two stints on TV, one as Lord John Marbury in "The West Wing", and as Robin Colcord on "Cheers".

It seems Parnell had the fire intentionally set, not only to collect on the insurance, but also to illegally sell the guns.  And a couple of the cases of guns were stolen by the hoods that tried to sell Mom a gun early in the movie.

All's well that ends well, as they say, as Joe, with the help of Mom, prevent Parnell from leaving the country with the contraband.  And spoiler alert! we find out in the end that Joe finally proposed to Gwen and they are engaged. (A deleted scene on the DVD shows the proposal scene, but it was cut from the theatrical release. Watching it, I can see why.  It wasn't all that funny.)

So here is the skinny on Stone Face in comedy.  I still say he should stick to action, with the occasional comic barbs in certain situations.  But as for the fact that they are considered some of his worst movies? I would have you go watch Oscar (another comedy), or even The Specialist (not a comedy) before you decide that.

Well, that brings us to the time we need to leave the drive-in.  They are already shutting down the lights and blasting "Drunkenstein" through the speakers.  And my mom is texting me to see if I'll stop to get some milk. Drive safely, folks.



  1. Thanks for watching these so I don't have to. And love the Stone face nickname...

  2. Had to smile at the story of Schwarzenegger leveraging their rivalry and manipulating Stallone into taking Stop or My Mom will Shoot. No wonder he became the Governator, with that kind of Machiavellian mind! That is the stuff of high comedy, and would make a great movie.

    1. Arnold could do comedy. Of course his best was when he was actually paired with a good comedic actor like Danny DeVito. Thanks for reading.

  3. I had heard of rhinestone and even knew Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton starred in it, but I knew nothing about the plot. Thank you for illuminating it for me and that music video is something truly special! I may have to put this on my watch list!

    1. Both of these are worth at least one watch (maybe not repeat watching, but then not all movies are...) Thanks for reading.

  4. There will be a load of compromisin'
    On the road to my horizon...

    You got "Rhinestoine Cowboy " stuck in my head, so I thought I'd share...

    1. There are worse songs to get stuck in your head. Be thankful I didn't find a reference to "You Light Up My Life". Thanks for reading.

  5. It's too bad these 2 flicks didn't turn out better. Although the ideas aren't new, they're still good ideas. Anyway, like Realweegiemidget Review says, Thank you for watching them so we don't have to.

    1. That was my original purpose when I started the blog. Watching movies no one else would even THINK to watch... :-D Thanks for reading.

  6. I remember when both of these came out -- and I remember being turned off of Stop! just because of the name! I'd kinda want to check it out now, though. And I love that Arnold tricked Stallone into going after the part -- too funny!

    1. Back in those days I went to any movie that had Stallone in it. Thanks for reading.

  7. Dolly and Sly Stallone together was not on my bingo card (I couldn't get through "Drunkenstein." Sorry). For that matter, neither were Sly and Estelle, but stranger things have happened, right? Thanks again for joining the blogathon--looking forward to ours, too! :-)

    1. Considering it's impressive that Stallone would even TRY to sing, I think it's pretty good that he pulled it off. (At least I THINK he pulled it off. Except for the parts where he sings BADLY. He might have been dubbed for the parts where he sings halfway decent.) Thanks for reading.

  8. I'm not really a fan of Stallone at the best of times and these sound truly awful. There was never any chance I was going to check them out when they were originally released and your article has given me no reason to think I missed anything. :D

    1. Probably not. But then Stallone is a taste you have to have going in. I don't think Stallone is one of those guys who hooks you after the fact. Thanks for reading.

  9. Big fan of 'Stone Face' to but he is NOT a comedian (unlike Arnold, who can and does make us laugh.) But Sly was an underrated actor too--have you ever seen him in F.I.S.T (1978). He's impressive....

    1. FIST has been on a watch list. Haven't seen it yet. might be a while now. I have a huge schedule going until at least late May. Thanks for reading.


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