METHOD TO THE MADNESS OF JERRY LEWIS
Studio: Anchor Bay
Street Date: January 22, 2013
Run Time: 116 Minutes
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
At one point during a Q&A taken during one of many filmed sequences
from Jerry Lewis' recent world tour, a member of the audience confesses
how much he worships the entertainer. That person might as well have been
me. For I have loved and followed Jerry Lewis from childhood. For me, he
remains the greatest entertainer/artist I have ever known. If asked what person
I would most like to meet in my lifetime dead or alive, I would absolutely pick
Jerry over anyone else. He's never ceased being one of my heroes.
Having seen a few documentaries on the life of Jerry Lewis over the years,
perhaps none does it better than A&E's BIOGRAPHY (which you can watch
for free online), which gives the most complete overview of the showbiz legend.
In fact, after watching the 2-hour documentary one would probably wonder what
more could be said about Jerry Lewis...that is, until now....
Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis is a very unique departure from past
docs in that Director/Producer Gregg Barson has been given unlimited behind-
the-scenes access to Mr. Lewis during his recent world tour. The result is a
remarkably fresh look at Lewis' reigning career via brand-new interviews and
Included here is a rare opportunity to see the 85 year-old legend entertaining
his audience with jokes, songs, and wonderful stories about his career. During
a totally unscripted Q&A sequence, you can see just how sharp the entertainer's
mind remains as he reacts to unscripted questions thrown to him. There are other
candid moments included here such as Jerry rehearsing with his band or facing
a crowd of reporters and fans at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Method to the Madness does an admirable job of diving into the film vaults
and providing us with many great moments during Lewis' career. We learn how
in 1931, Jerry was introduced to show business through his parents, and how an
accident on stage garnered enough laughter from the audience to make Jerry realize
how much more he wanted from them. Of course, his 10-year partnership with Dean
Martin catapulted the duo to international fame and this documentary provides
many classic moments for us to savor. It's rather incredible to see, from clips of
mass crowd reaction, that Dean and Jerry were the original Beatles.
If there is any complaint about Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, it would
be that there is too much information being crammed into such a short period of
time. It's difficult to take all this new footage and interview and combine it with
a complete history of Jerry's long career. Many of the classic clips are way too
brief to be completely enjoyed. Astonishingly, I did notice some outtakes that I
have never previously seen, including multiple make-up tests from The Nutty
Professor. I was also fascinated to hear some new perspective regarding Mr.
Lewis having his first heart attack at the point of racing to the top of the long set
of stairs that became a focal point in Cinderfella. I am not certain that this was
something that was previously discussed as extensively on camera as it has now.
Finally, some new included footage from the Paramount studio lot during the filming
of The Ladies Man which shows how open Jerry was to allowing outsiders to come
in and walk on the set.
While I found the A&E Biography to be the most complete look at the life of Jerry
Lewis, it's hard to rule out Method of Madness as being the perfect compliment to
that documentary. Madness is more personable as many of the stories come from
Jerry himself resulting in an unfettered look at his 80-year career. With Jerry being
personally involved, the documentary seems to stay in a safe zone, straying away
from saying anything about the difficulties that plagued the relationship between
himself and Dean Martin. Not that I mind, considering that Method to the Madness
really aims to be a celebration of Jerry Lewis.
And this celebration is supported with interviews from a wealth of celebrities that
include Eddie Murphy, Carol Burnett, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Seinfeld, Carl Reiner,
Quentin Tarantino, Billy Crystal and John Landis (to name a few). All this star power
seems kind of wasted here as all the time devoted to celebrity praise takes away from
the time the audience would rather spend watching Jerry.
Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis is the perfect companion piece for anyone
who adores the entertainer and owns most or all of his existing library available on DVD.
Though it's somewhat lacking in giving us a complete look at the the life of Jerry Lewis,
it does affectively manage to reinforce why he has become a living legend -- particularly
for conveying his brilliance of mastering physical comedy and visual sight gags.
For someone who loves Jerry and his work as much as I do, I found this to be a highly
enjoyable reflection of the entertainer's career.