Peter Bogdanovich’s underseen romantic comedy is an unabashed love letter to 1980 Manhattan. Storyline and plot take a welcome backseat to an attractive if iconic cast portraying characters digging each other and the summer midtown New York vibe they inhabit.
Frank Sinatra’s songs of the era (“New York, New York”) contrast against country music tunes to give the movie a surprisingly effective musical lilt. It is a picture about love and joy that celebrates its own purpose for being. Knowing nods between characters acknowledge the film’s open secret. We’re constantly watching characters admiring or spying on one other from afar.
You can’t help but stumble over yourself as an audience member watching Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, John Ritter, Colleen Camp, Patti Hansen, Blane Novak, and former Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten goofing around as the least believable private detectives and subjects you could dream of.
There may not be much dramatic conflict, but that’s the point. Colleen Camp’s request from a street vendor for a “very large orange juice” is rewarded with a small half-filled Styrofoam cup. New York culture is crammed into every frame.
Bogdanovich takes inspiration from Arthur Schnitzler’s often-adapted play “La Ronde” to create this lighthearted comedy of manners that never strays from the shallow end of the screwball comedy pool. Pratfalls come with the territory but “What’s Up Doc” this is not. Still, nobody falls down funnier than John Ritter.
“They All Laughed” is as breezy as its title suggests, but there are so many tiny elements that make you want to revisit the picture. Patti Hansen’s guileless smile, scenes filmed in and around Manhattan’s legendary Algonquin Hotel, and Dorothy Stratten’s stunning charisma contribute to the film’s friendly appeal.
If you’ve ever wanted to take a time machine vacation back to 1980 New York where you can do no wrong, this fun-loving movie makes it possible. We’re all in the mood for love.
Rated PG. 115 mins. (B+) Three stars — out of five / no halves)
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