Friday, December 23, 2011

Dear Brigitte

I don't know how many more times it's going to air on the Fox Movie Channel, so I ought to mention the movie Dear Brigitte, which is airing at 8:00 AM on December 24.

James Stewart, in that portion of his career where he was getting cast in family comedies like Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, plays Professor Leaf, a literature professor on the west coast who lives with his wife Vina (Glynis Johns) and his two children, daughter Pandora (Cindy Carol) and son Erasmus (Billy Mumy). At first this sounds like the typical all-American family -- except that the Leafs live on a steamboat-turned-houseboat complete with captain (Ed Wynn). In addition, Prof. Leaf only seems to care for the arts, and has quite a bit of disdain for the sciences, which is a problem since his university wants more science. There's also the much bigger problem that Erasmus has no artistic capabilities whatsoever. Can't sing, can't draw, can't paint, can't play a musical instrument. So imagine the good professor's horror when he discovers that Erasmus is a math whiz!

Oh, that's the least of his problems. Pandora's boyfriend Kenny (Fabian) needs help with his math homework; the bank is horrified to learn that this little kid can tell them there balance is wrong; and the military and head shrinkers would like to know more about what's going on in little Erasmus' mind. And if those aren't enough problems, Erasmus is able to use that brilliant mathematical mind to determine which of the ponies is most likely to win, which has obvious use -- and there are more than enough people out there willing to use this talent for their own purposes. Erasmus, on the other hand, thinks about other things, namely lovely French actress Brigitte Bardot.

From the above synopsis, you might be able to figure that there's quite a bit going on here. That, I think, is one of the things that helps drag the movie down. The other is that it's trying to be be hip when that's something James Stewart probably shouldn't have been doing. As for Erasmus' obsession with Bardot, that's why she's mentioned in the title. Erasmus writes to Brigitte and eventually receives a reply from her, which leads to him and Dad getting to meet her at the end of the film. Bardot herself didn't want the studio using her in their advertising since she was really only doing a cameo and wasn't the main part of the story. (Look carefully; she's not in the credits.) But since she's obviously good-looking enough that a studio would want to use her to try to draw at least a certain segment of the population in, the suits had a bit of a problem. They solved it by putting Bardot in the title!

Dear Brigitte is passable family entertainment if you have kids who won't mind a nearly 50-year-old picture. But it's nothing great.

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