Here’s a tribute to one of the all-time greatest voice actresses, June Foray, who celebrates her 94th birthday today. Best known as Rocky the flying squirrel, she also provided voices for Lucifer the cat in “Cinderella,” Grandmother Fa in “Mulan,” and Cindy Lou Who in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” On “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” she not only played Rocky but also Nell Fenwick and Natasha Fatale.
My all-time favorite television show is “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The wit, sophistication, and charm of the show and the marvelous performances by its talented cast have made it an enduring classic, with many of its best episodes available to a new generation of fans on Hulu. The Walnut Times is a delightful fan publication.
Carl Reiner created the show based on his own experiences as a writer on the legendary staff of Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” along with Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and his brother Danny (who inspired “The Odd Couple”), and many more who would shape the comedy writing of the next decade. (Woody Allen joined the staff later and worked on Caesar’s comedy specials.) Later, Mel Brooks produced the movie “My Favorite Year” and Neil Simon wrote “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” also inspired by the wild adventures of the young comedy writers in the early days of television.
The show focused on the life of the head writer, Rob Petrie (Van Dyke) at home with his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore, who was just 24 when the show first aired) and son Richie and at the office with his co-writers Sally (Rose Marie) and Buddy (Morey Amsterdam). They worked on a “Your Show of Shows”-style variety hour headed by a temperamental star (Reiner himself, appearing occasionally as Alan Brady) and produced by the star’s brother-in-law, Mel (Richard Deacon). Rob and Laura were a rare married couple on television who were obviously crazy about each other. Van Dyke and Moore had enormous chemistry that some have compared to the glamorous young President and First Lady in the White House and a natural rhythm with each other that made their relationship very relatable. Some of the episodes were directed by “Your Show of Shows” veteran Howard Morris.
On October 1, Reiner and Van Dyke will appear at the Egyptian Theatre for a tribute to the show.
Spooky Buddies are coming to DVD on September 20, just in time for Halloween! Disney’s irresistible talking puppies are back in an all-new movie that takes them far across town to a mysterious mansion where something very spooky is going on. With the help of some unexpected new friends — including a friendly ghost — they have another exciting adventure and a lot of fun. Check out the Spooky Buddies on Facebook!
I have one copy to give away. Send me an email at email@example.com with “Spooky” in the subject line and tell me your favorite Buddy — and don’t forget your address! I’ll pick one entry at random a week from today.
This film takes the most wrenching and universal dilemma of family life and turns it into a sitcom-y love letter to Sarah Jessica Parker. Not the character she plays, the whippet-thin, stiletto-wearing financial whiz with the adorably mussed hair, but the actress herself, whose appeal as a performer continues to diminish in direct proportion to her increasing need to make us love her and expectation that we must. Carrie has been very bad for SJP.
Parker plays Kate Reddy (the names are thuddingly on the nose here), a Boston mom of two, married to an architect (winningly played by Greg Kinnear), and trying hard to cope with both the intensely competitive professionals at the office (Olivia Munn and “SNL’s” Seth Meyers play work-obsessed underminers) and the even more intensely competitive stay-at-home moms (one asks plaintively whether a birthday cake is made with organic flour and another sighs sweetly and explains that she just couldn’t allow anyone else to raise her children as she spends all day at the gym). These are cheap shot caricatures with little wit and less heart. If the film had a smidgen of sympathy for anyone else in the story or any convincing moment with Kate and her children when they were awake it would not ring so hollow. It’s hard to connect to a character who is feeling judged when her point of view is itself so petty and judgmental. Even Kate’s one friend (a dishy Christina Hendricks) cannot be permitted to be at Kate’s level. She’s a single working mother, so points off for her.
Kate and her husband both get their professional opportunities of a lifetime and shift into higher gear, missing their son’s first haircut and neglecting his delayed speech and a dangerous hole in the carpet on the stairs. Up all night making lists that never end, Kate promises everything to everyone and discovers that sometimes jugglers drop all the balls at once. Sometimes you get a call to fly out of town for a big meeting in the middle of Thanksgiving. And sometimes you get the message that your child has lice just as you walk into the big meeting. Infestation turns out to be just an opportunity to dish at the delousing salon with a friend (compare that to the more realistic hazmat treatment of the same problem in last year’s “The Change-Up”), another example of the gap between the way this film makes everything about Parker, I mean Kate.
I understand that motherhood seems fresh and new and unfairly not communicated about properly for each new generation of women who wonder how they got from the snarky authenticity of their post-college years to searching for a presentable outfit that (1) has no spills or spit-up on it and (2) fits (this is a problem grey-hound thin and beginning to look stringy SJP does not have). It will feel a bit stale to anyone who has either lived through it or seen any sitcom or family comedy of the last decade. Even the derided “Motherhood” with Uma Thurman felt more authentic than this. A mis-sent email with a crude joke? That’s so 2008. And when Kate’s colleague (Pierce Brosnan) starts signing his emails “XO” and, despite her denials, Kate just manages to keep all those balls in the air to the breathless admiration of even those who once failed to appreciate her, we can’t help feeling that we do know that in fact she doesn’t do it very well.