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Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis

The one-time ‘Nutty Professor’ just wants to be loved. Is that so wrong? Well, now that you mentioned it ...

Rod Lott January 31st, 2013

There's a long-standing joke about Jerry Lewis being loved by the French, and to paraphrase The Simpsons, it’s funny ’cuz it’s true. We even see the adulation — then, now — in Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, a two-hour documentary about the man whom one celebrity admirer calls “The Beatles of movie comedy.”


While undeniably watchable, the project is a pure puff piece. After all, it counts Lewis among its producers, so no way he’s getting treated with anything with less than kid gloves. Anything in his life that might be considered a boat rocker is absent: divorce, bankruptcy, Hardly Working, The Day the Clown Cried, etc.

I think that’s a shame, because it doesn’t allow for a true portrait of a man who certainly has earned one. Aren't our successes sweeter because they follow failures?

The Lewis we get here is caught up in contradictions. He laments a dearth of “critical and loving affection” from Hollywood, then pulls out his honorary Academy Award. He bemoans the supposedly poor sales of his singing album “All it did was 7 million copies.”

Luckily, we also get glimpses of the indelible, undeniable Lewis: the supreme talent at play and at work in clips from his movies, which made a combined $800 million at the box office. That is the one I wish to watch, versus what this made-for-cable program only allows us to see. —Rod Lott

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