The Man with Two Brains (1983)

11 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

So it’s 1983—Steve Martin, in the few years since his big break in 1979’s “The Jerk,” is either a guy you love or you hate. In movies like “The Jerk” and “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” he comes across as a comic actor who REALLY doesn’t know when to quit or control himself. In 1983’s “The Man with Two Brains,” he has toned down just a little bit (emphasis on “little bit”).

Martin plays Dr. Hfuhruhurr, a brain surgeon. Right away, you can see what kind of movie this is and know right away that his character’s last name is going to be mispronounced as a running joke throughout the movie.

Hfuhruhurr accidentally hits an attractive temptress (Kathleen Turner) who ran out in the middle of the road, chasing after her latest victim who is fed up with her (after she cooks one of his own goldfish). Hfuhruhurr has no idea what kind of woman she is and performs an operation that saves her life. Later, they get married but their sex life is dull, mainly because…there is no sex. That drives Hfuhruhurr crazy.

In an attempt to finally make love, he arranges for a honeymoon in a strange hotel. How strange? The elevator doesn’t hit the bottom floor, so Hfuhruhurr has to climb out halfway down. There’s also a mysterious Elevator Killer that kills people before they reach the top floor. But that’s just the beginning. There’s a secret laboratory in which Dr. Necessiter (David Warner) is conducting the strangest experiments ever. An example is there are several brains in jars that are kept alive, even though their bodies are dead. And that brings us to the second half of the film, which is ultimately silly yet funny and kind of charming in a bizarre way—Hfuhruhurr falls in love with one of the brains (voiced by an uncredited Sissy Spacek) while tired of his married life with Turner and discovering he can speak to this brain via telepathy. So he puts lips on the jar to make “her” more human.

The second half of “The Man with Two Brains” is the best thing about this movie. I must admit, when the movie started, I felt the movie was trying to be more like “The Jerk” in the way Martin behaves and the script was giving us some tired gags (with the exception of one big laugh involving his superior and his fingers close to his own face). But once we are in that laboratory, “The Man with Two Brains” becomes both funny and sweet. And I love the sincere goofiness of the situation in which Hfuhruhurr is in love with this brain while he still has Kathleen Turner’s character, who is a complete tramp.

Kathleen Turner and David Warner have a lot of fun with their roles and Steve Martin, as Hfuhruhurr, has learned to tone down his scene chewing and becomes a more likable person. It’s about time someone told him that behaving like his character in “The Jerk” was not a good career move. “The Man with Two Brains” is funny and goofy and though I was unsure of where it was going, it came back with a good second half—so good that I’m giving the movie three stars.

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