This was a Keaton film I hadn’t seen before, so it was a lot of fun to see it on the big screen at a local theater, accompanied with live organ. Even more incredible was the fact that the movie had opened there at that theater in its ORIGINAL run in the twenties and was accompanied by THAT VERY ORGAN. That’s pretty cool.
Anyway, this isn’t one of Keaton’s masterpieces, but it’s funny, of course. Keaton is the bookish young man at college who pines for a girl who only likes athletes. Okay, that’s basically your movie there. This one is pretty sketchy, in that it’s just a series of routines for much of its running time. The movie eventually even kind of drags during an incredibly long scene where Keaton just goes around an arena and attempts everything. I mean, everything: pole vault, long jump, discus, hurling, hurdles, javelin throwing, baseball, etc. It’s pretty clear that Keaton just went into an arena and messed about for an hour while they filmed it and it gets a bit tiresome even if some of the bits, like the long jump and the pole vault, are brilliant. It’s quite often really funny and the climax of the film is brilliant. It includes a pole vaulting stunt so difficult that it’s one of the very few times in his career that Keaton actually didn’t do the stunt himself, but it just plays so brilliantly that you don’t mind. There’s one rather troubling sequence where Keaton is trying to get a job and so he dons blackface in order to be hired at a restaurant that’s hiring “colored waiters only” (!!). It’s not cool in 2016, no matter how you slice it, but it’s at least a case where Keaton is making fun of his character being an idiot instead of making fun of blacks, which, taken by the standards of the time, probably marks him as not a terrible person. Like I say, it’s still jarring and uncomfortable, but it’s not as bad as it could be, I guess. Anyway, the film as a whole is fun and, at only 66 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, even if it’s a bit too scattershot to be a masterpiece. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – a scattershot tone keeps this from being a masterpiece, but Keaton still turns out a clever, funny movie about a would-be athlete. 3 ½ stars.