Saturday, September 4, 2021


Probably like a lot of other people, I had seen the Woody Allen movie Bananas when I was college-aged, since some of the individual scenes were fairly famous gags. But in the 13 years I've been doing this blog, I never did a post on it. TCM ran it some months back, so I DVRed it and finally got around to re-watching it to do a post on here.

The movie stars off with a coup in the fictional banana republic of San Marcos, somewhere in Latin America, as narrated by the ABC's Wide World of Sports reporter Howard Cosell. Seemingly unrelated to this is Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen, as if you couldn't tell). He works as a product tester and is a fairly meek man barely getting by in life. One day the young woman Nancy (Louise Lasser) comes to his apartment door, and it changes his life.

Nancy is one of those "socially engaged" types, campaigning for whatever the cause of the day is. The current cause is the revolution in San Marcos, which has the coup leader, Vargas (Carlos Montalban) becoming increasingly dictatorial, to the point that there's a new group of rebels looking to overthrow him. Nancy has a petition regarding getting the US to take action to deal with San Marcos for Mellish to sign, but Mellish seems more interested in bedding Nancy. Nancy figures this out, and wants to break off the relationship since Mellish doesn't show any initiative.

Mellish figures that the best way to win Nancy back is to become socially involved himself, and go down to San Marcos to investigate the situation for himself. Vargas sees in this an opportunity. He can have Mellish killed and blame it on the rebels, which will certainly win him sympathy in the United States. Mellish is just incompetent enough to have enough Mr. Magoo-type calamities befall Vargas' men, with the rebel leader Esposito's (Jacobo Morales) men capturing him instead. But since Vargas says Mellish has been killed anyway, there's not much for Mellish to do but to fall in with Esposito's men.

Eventually, through a comedy of errors, Mellish gets installed as the president of San Marcos, and has to return to the US to try to get the US to give San Marcos foreign aid. However, his real identity is bound to come out, and being a mercenary abroad might be legally problematic for him.

Or at least, all of that is the ostensible plot. In fact, Bananas is more of a series of set pieces hanging on a rather threadbare plot. If you're looking for a coherent story, you're not going to get it here. If you're looking for humor? Well, that depends on your taste in humor. A good portion of the movie still works well, although I have to admit that on the whole I didn't find it quite as funny as I had remembered 30 or so years ago. Certainly, some of the scenes still work, perhaps most notably when Mellish is trying to buy a porno magazine. But in the scenes where he has to be the neurotic sort that is the hallmark of Allen's movies from Annie Hall and beyond, it's not nearly as funny, at least not for me.

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