THE FRISCON KID - AMC Academic 6, Avalon, Beacon Mall, K-B Cereberus, K-B Georgetown Square.
If the simple Yiddish tale about the simpleton were simple to invent, any simpleton could be Isaac Bahevis Singer.
With its combination of humor, pathos, ridicule, sweetness, tolerance, tradition, religion, history and sentimentality, the instant Jewish folk tale is infinitely more complicated than, say, the movie western. To slapdash all those delicate ingredients together, and then graft them onto the cinematic tradition of the western, as has been done in "The Frisco Kid," is the act of -
Well, the producer is Mace Neufeld, who has been laboring for seven years to put on the screen this rabbi-robber picture about the buddyship between a Polish rabbi and an indigenous bank robber. The rabbi is played by Gene Wilder, who also claims to have been pushing the project for years, and the robber by Harrison Ford.
One assumes that they meant well. This attempt does not smack of the cynicism of the cartoon-western "The Villain," in which one why-don't-we of an idea is considered to be enough to sustain a film, however similar the result.
There seems to be, in "The Frisco Kid," an awareness of the need for other ingredients: the history of 19th-century Jewish settlers, the literary tradition of the bumbler who is protected by God, the sweetness of an innocent's religion and morality. But they are handled without subtlety. Stupidity and saintliness alternate so rapidly in the rabbi that his blue eyes begin to look like flash cards.
And because there are good ideas here, such as the rabbi's hailing a group of Amish farmers as fellow Jews because of their black hats and beards, there is plenty of pathos. It's supplied by the audience. CAPTION: Picture 1, GENE WILDER, AS THE POLISH RABBI IN THE OLD WEST.; Picture 2, THE RABBI IS SHOCKED WHEN THE KIND-HEARTED OUTLAW (HARRISON FORD) OFFERS TO SHARE HIS LOOT.