I must admit; I have never seen a Martin and Lewis film before. The only exposure I’ve had to the duo is their efforts as separate individuals, which is hardly enough to go by when expecting their efforts as a comedy duo. Now, first off, I went into Artists and Models not realizing it was technically a musical. There’s about three or four numbers (plus a reprise), so the film’s not chock full of them, and the film is much more concerned with being a vehicle for the comedy stylings of the main duo than focusing on the songs, but Martin and Lewis do still break out into song, so be prepared for it. As a musical, it’s not that good, but as a comedy, it’s a little better, even if it wasn’t my sort of thing.
Dean Martin is a straight-laced (read: straight man) painter who lives with his wacky and obnoxious (read: funny man) roommate, played by Jerry Lewis. I won’t get too much into the plot, since half of what made this watchable for me was finding out the story, but there’s a female cartoonist living on the floor above the duo, along with her minxy sketch model Bessie, and you can guess where the story goes from here (well, until the last thirty minutes or so). I have to say, it’s weird seeing Jerry Lewis look like a regular person, yet still talk like he’s warming up for The Nutty Professor. Apparently the crowds of moviegoers in the 50s found such a voice funny; I just find it grating. There was, however, plenty of humor to be had in the situations and actions attached to both characters, and I got a good laugh out of several of the gags in the film, but not too many. There were a few times, however, where the comedy bits seemed to be a little stretched; there’s an extended sequence with Lewis running up and down stairs to convey information between Martin and a caller on the telephone three stories down, and we pretty much get the point of the scene about halfway through it, and yet it keeps going. That, and the songs were rather intrusive, meaning they weren’t seamlessly integrated into the story; it was pretty much “story, more story, more story– SONG”, which really shatters that suspension of disbelief required to enjoy damn near any film. That, and the obvious decision to pre-record the songs, so the voices cut off into sounding professionally done in a studio whenever a song breaks out, which is another little annoyance that comes with musicals.
For all that I said decrying the film in the last paragraph, I still enjoyed myself watching this film, and at the very least, that’s all that I ask. I don’t know if I’d call it a winner, but it wasn’t a disappointment, so that’s a bit of a win right there. The one thing that did completely swing me was the totally out-of-left-field plot change-up that happens in the last act (that involves the Secret Service and a group of foreign spies), that didn’t really seem to make much sense, but I forgave the film for not dotting its i’s, even if the plot development really was rammed into the film for some obscure reason, but heads up on the last act. That aside, there wasn’t a whole lot to fault Artists and Models for, so for that, I was thankful. And I got a few laughs out of it, so this was a nice night.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10