Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gibson Frazier, Susan Egan, Cara Buono, Brian Davies, Dwight Ewell, Frank Gorshin, David Margulies, Anthony Rapp, Timothy Burns, Marisa Ryan, Bobby Short, Michael Allinson
Written by: Gibson Frazier, Adam Abraham
Directed by: Adam Abraham
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 77
Date: 01/24/1999

Man of the Century (1999)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Bee's Knees

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Written and directed by Adam Abraham, Man of the Century is a swell movie that proves they still make 'em like they used to. Gibson Frazier (who co-wrote the screenplay and co-produced) stars as Johnny Twennies, a fast-talkin' newspaper man in modern day New York City who seems to have come directly out of the 1920's and 30's. He dresses in a three-piece suit, eats meat, smokes, and uses phrases like, "ya gotta like the kid's moxie," and "say, what's the idea?" and "that's using the old noodle." His 1990s friends and co-workers are puzzled by his behavior, but every time they try to tell him what's what, Johnny turns the tables. And the fact is that Johnny is so darn likable that, by the end of the movie, no one cares if he's odd.

Filmed in black-and-white, Man of the Century starts out as a silent film, then moves to sound. It's a kind of homage to an overall lump of 1930s films with snappy dialogue, innocent plots, and simple entertainment values. You wanted to be that guy up on screen as he socks the bad guys, dispenses infallible wisdom, sings beautifully, and gets the gorgeous girl (played here by Susan Egan of Broadway's Beauty and the Beast). Johnny is kind of a Bogart, Cagney, and Astaire all rolled up in one. Thankfully, there's no explanation (time travel? an escapee from a mental ward?) as to why Johnny Twennies exists in the 1990s. That would ruin the movie's charm.

As Man of the Century goes on, it gets more and more absurd, as well as technically more inept with bad continuity and bad looping. I'm sure that this was all done on purpose, to remind us that it's only a movie. But, gee whiz, what a movie! If Toy Story 2 is sold out, this will make a snazzy Thanksgiving trip to the movies. It's the bee's knees!

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