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‘Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 22, 1989


Carl Reiner
Robert Lindsay;
Cathryn Bradshaw;
Robbie Coltrane;
Jackie Gayle;
Anne Bancroft;
Corbin Bernsen
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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Fred Astaire is no doubt rolling over in his top hat at Carl Reiner's latest effort, "Bert Rigby, You're a Fool" -- a toe-stubbing, song-swallowing tribute to the heyday of the Hollywood musical. Dances that Astaire and Gene Kelly made famous are rehashed in this holiday for clodhoppers, a movie that proves they can't make them that way anymore.

Robert Lindsay, a British singer-dancer-actor who took Broadway by storm, trips over the light fantastic here as the title character, a Walter Mittyish coal miner for whom life is a fabulous '50s musical, and whose pregnant honey is a short-legged Cyd Charisse. Bred on terpsichorean cinema, the adult Rigby dances "the Continental" on his way up the mine shaft, warbles "Singin' in the Rain" with a seltzer bottle at the pub, croons "Isn't It Romantic?" with a nosebleed. He recalls TV's "Singing Detective," without the psoriasis and with a trusting heart.

He wins an amateur talent show and is discovered by a director of condom commercials who flies him to Hollywood for a $100,000 deal that falls flat. The resilient Rigby -- some might think him a schlemiel -- is mugged, fleeced and hung out to blow-dry, but never takes off his tap shoes or gets a frog in his throat.

While he is working as a gardener, his rendition of "I'll See You Again" attracts the attention of Mrs. Perlestein (Anne Bancroft), the kittenish wife of a movie mogul, who hires Rigby to teach a generic star (Corbin Bernsen) a British accent. Cooing, lisping and batting her eyes, Bancroft is Betty Boop with wattles. It's time to hang up that negligee. And Reiner should hang it up, period. There's probably already a space at the video store with Bert Rigby's name on it.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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