Haunted Honeymoon is a wacky, dumb, disorganized comedy whatchamacallit that will irritate you as well as make you smile.
Two of Gene Wilder’s comedies were released to us critics about a week before he sadly passed away, and now I’m tasked with reviewing them, the first being Haunted Honeymoon, a horror comedy in a similar vein to Young Frankenstein, only not as funny. Haunted Honeymoon is a wacky, dumb, disorganized comedy whatchamacallit that will irritate you as well as make you smile. I get the impression this is one of those movies made purely for fun. It was not a labor of love (other than real-life husband and wife Wilder and Gilda Radner playing a screen couple in it). The two star as engaged radio actors who regularly perform horror-mystery stories. With their wedding coming up, Larry Abbot (Wilder) is experiencing random panic attacks on-air. In order to cure him of his phobias, his sinister-looking uncle (Peter Vaughn) invites Larry to the estate of his eccentric Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise in drag). But as we learn early on, there is a werewolf afoot, and soon it becomes clear that many of Larry’s shady relatives want to get a hand on the fortune his Aunt Kate intends to leave to him.
The main problem is that the story skips around far too much. The comedy sequences don’t weave themselves in organically. Rather, they seem like unrelated set pieces that were shoehorned into the story. Many times, the scenes appear out of order due to this, and sometimes completely out of place. Some of them are funny, but many of them are dismissible. A few highlights involve a Young Frankenstein-related gag where Wilder must pass off part of a cadaver’s body as his own to a couple of policemen (legs this time instead of hands). Radner and DeLuise share a charming musical number, and for the most part, the comical misdirections exceed expectations. It’s the low-brow, obvious gags that detract from these positive qualities, just like with the later work of Mel Brooks (Dracula Dead and Loving It being the prime example).
It’s really hard to hate this movie, though, despite how much it invites scorn. In the end, the sequence of events just makes no sense, and you feel like you’ve watched a 90-minute comedy sketch that pays no attention to continuity or logic. So that’s where I get the sense that making this movie was just about having fun, not about Wilder matching his better works. But something about it warms my heart. I may just be saying this because, in the wake of his death, seeing Wilder on screen is such a welcome experience. While his writing endeavors seem half-hearted and ill-advised, he puts his talents in comedic timing and endearing performance to great use. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Wilder not trying in any movie (although I certainly haven’t seen them all).
It’s an optimistic failure, but there are a few worthwhile diamonds in the rough. Unless you plan on having a full-on Wilder marathon, I’d suggest sticking to the classics. | Nic Champion
Haunted Honeymoon is being distributed by Kino Lorber on Blu-ray. Other than trailers for their other Wilder releases, there are no extras on the disc.