Jerry Lewis: The Legendary Jerry Collection(Paramount Home Entertainment, 10.25.2005)
For many in America, watching ten Jerry Lewis movies is considered the appropriate sentence for Martha Stewart's crimes. However, I've always had a soft spot for Jerry's films (and I'm not French). When I was a kid, Jerry was right up there with Elvis and Godzilla. This impressive new collection from Paramount boxes up the DVDs that came out a year ago -- The Delicate Delinquent, The Bellboy, Cinderfella, The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor, The Patsy, The Disorderly Orderly, and The Family Jewels -- plus The Stooge, which features Jerry and Dean Martin.
There's a cornball element to many of these films, but they still have laugh-out-loud moments. The true genius of Jerry was discovering that, when it comes to goofy slapstick comedy, plot is optional. In The Bellboy, we get 72 minutes of strange vignettes that wrap up with a big finale. Think of how many funny 5-minute Saturday Night Live sketches were turned into 90-minute lame disasters because the producers insisted on a story with character arcs and three acts. Jerry knew that dramatic structure wasn't necessary to entertain an audience. You just gotta give people a reason to laugh.
What really impresses me about these films is Jerry's dazzling handling of dramatic moments, especially in The Nutty Professor. It's easy to imagine his Buddy Love character sliding into a gritty crime drama. But why would Jerry ruin his hot comedy streak by going serious?
The picture and sound quality on these titles is consistently top notch. While we aren't overwhelmed with bonus features, Jerry does contribute commentary tracks with Steve Lawrence on several of the films. These tracks could have been more informative but they're welcome, nonetheless.
Steve comes across like Chris Farley's interview with Paul McCartney. But Jerry does give the big details about projects or how he learned to direct himself. There's also a nice selection of outtakes showing how loose things were on Jerry's set. The Nutty Professor gets the full special edition treatment, including a featurette that covers all of Jerry's career at Paramount.
With 5 slim cases that hold 2 DVDs each, this boxset is as revolutionary as the cinema it contains. These 10 classic titles fit into a little more space than 2 conventional DVD cases. It's as if Jerry is saying to us, just give me a little space on the shelf and I promise I'll make you laugh. -- Joe Corey