Review: Izzy & Moe (1985)

>> Sunday, August 26, 2007


USA/TV/C-92m./Dir: Jackie Cooper/Wr: Steven Patrick Bell & Robert Boris/Cast: Jackie Gleason (Izzy Einstein), Art Carney (Moe Smith), Cynthia Harris (Dallas Carter), Zohra Lampert (Esther Einsein), Drew Snyder (Agent Harris), Dick Latessa (Lt. Murphy)

Although Prohibition was reviled by the majority of the American public, Prohibition agents Isadore Einstein and Moe Smith were a couple of the best-loved personalities of the time. From 1920 to 1925, the middle-aged, overweight duo managed to gain entrance to speakeasies and score arrests while trimmer colleagues failed, because they didn’t look like federal agents. The fame the boys gained through newspaper accounts of their exploits didn’t impair their arrest record. The pudgy pair simply donned disguises and used fake accents to eventually arrest over 4,000 suspected bootleggers and to impound an estimated 5,000,000 bottles of hooch. In the realm of buzzkillers, Izzy and Moe rank very near the top.

Jackie Gleason and Art Carney of The Honeymooners fame saw the story of Izzy & Moe as a perfect vehicle to reunite one last time in front of television cameras. Being a fan of much of their previous work, it pains me to say that Izzy & Moe simply isn’t very good. One would think it impossible to take the story of the exceedingly colorful Prohibition characters and turn it into a bland, predictable bore, but the producers of the telefilm did just that. The film has very little humor, no dramatic impetus, and terrible production values (even by TV movie standards).

Gleason and Carney try hard to make the most of the miserable material, and occasionally there are glimmers of their old magic. In fact, the first part of the film plays like a variation on Kramden trying to talk Norton into a new get-rich-quick scheme. Unfortunately, the dramatic scenes involving Izzy’s family are as lifeless and stilted as a grade school production of Our Town; and the gangland scenes convey no sense of menace. In short, the film is as dry as a gin mill after a raid by the two title characters.

Drinks Consumed--Whiskey, beer, and wine

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, belching, and sneaking sips

Potent Quotables--Izzy (referring to his partner in drag): Hey, buddy, can I get a drink? That is a very ugly woman.

Video Availability--Izzy and Moe DVD (Universal)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Jimmy Durante portrayed a dynamic Prohibition agent of the Izzy & Moe variety in the message-drenched melodrama The Wet Parade (1932).

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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