Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Short Take: Lord Love a Duck

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

Tuesday Weld gives a terrific comic performance as Barbara Ann Greene, the teen beauty at the center of director George Axelrod’s Lord Love a Duck. Barbara Ann dreams of success and for everyone to love her. The day before classes start at her new school, she meets Alan (Roddy McDowell), an eccentric genie of a boy who makes it all happen. With Alan’s help, Barbara Ann connives her way into a new wardrobe, the school’s most popular clique, a job as the principal’s secretary, a marriage to a wealthy husband, and finally stardom as a beach-movie leading lady. The flirty ingenuousness, the little-girl drawl, the glee at surprises and acquiring things--they all make Weld’s Barbara Ann irresistible. There’s no doubt she’s a girl for whom men would do anything. The film is at its funniest when she guilelessly baits, hooks, and reels them in. Weld's knack for comic boredom and petulance is also a delight. It's too bad the film is otherwise a poorly executed mess. There’s no momentum to the story, and the satirical jabs at 1960s culture are much too broad to be effective. Axelrod’s staging is iffy by the standards of TV sitcoms. He also directs most of the cast to overdo everything. Some of Weld’s best moments--such as when Barbara Ann shops for sweaters with her father (Max Showalter), or her job interview with the school principal (Harvey Korman)--are nearly wrecked by her co-stars' mugging. There are also occasional problems with tone: Lola Albright gives a fine dramatic performance as Barbara Ann’s self-destructive mother, but it's completely out of place in a madcap comedy. The screenplay, credited to Larry H. Johnson and Axelrod, is based on the novel by Al Hine.

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