Saturday, February 13, 2016

Young Doctors in Love

Some time ago in my ramblings I referred to the ABC soap opera General Hospital.  I guess I can admit all these years later that in 1982 I briefly got hooked on the show because of a junior high sort-of girlfriend.  This was long after the show's celebrated Luke and Laura storyline, but the events were still your typically glossy intrigue.  I got a lot of ribbing from friends over this. I would even pause from my daily Atari obsession to watch. How I remember having a particular fondness for actress Robin Mattson, who played a "bad" girl.  I was unaware at the time that she already had some history of playing such parts in a few '70s exploitation cheapies, including one of Roger Corman's NURSE flicks.

So when I saw YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE later that year, I yielded more enjoyment from it than I perhaps would've had I not followed salacious intrigue in Port Charles.  The film is a spoof of such shows, complete with cameos by soap stars like Kin Shriner, Stuart Damon, and a pre-Brat Pack Demi Moore and pre-Northern Exposure Janine Turner, to add to the festivities. Unfortunately, Ms. Mattson is nowhere to be found.

Director Garry Marshall, in his theatrical debut, certainly had the experience and pedigree in television to oversee this silliness, but somehow it just doesn't play. Everything is off.  I remember watching his interview on either the Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas show, explaining how he wasn't sure how to pull off technical tricks like showing a calendar flip pages to represent passage of time. So accordingly one of the few jokes that works in YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE is when everything is set up for a car chase and then a guy says, "Door's locked.  No car chase". Otherwise, Marshall tries and tries to milk laughs, but the mojo he would find later hadn't quite arrived yet.  Though the director's success was never with slapstick, rather serio-comedies like PRETTY WOMAN and THE FLAMINGO KID.

There's no plot worth recounting in YOUNG DOCTORS.  Michael McKean, "Lenny" from Laverne & Shirley  is one of several of those described in the title, and often the butt of the others' insults.  Sean Young plays a colleague and love interest.  The ubiquitous (for the time) Dabney Coleman reliably plays another jackass, this time a chief surgeon.  Michael Richards is a hit man who has one mishap after another. Marshall regular Hector Elizondo is seen in drag and swears a lot. Harry Dean Stanton is on hand for an unfortunate urinalysis. Most of the jokes involve inuendoes, destruction, and overreactions.  There are entertaining overhead announcements, though none as funny as one from another lame comedy of the time, JEKYLL AND HYDE TOGETHER AGAIN: "Will the proctologist please report to the lobby? There's an asshole waiting."

Scene after scene plays to a silent audience. The rhythm isn't just off, it's practically non-existent.  Each joke thuds harder than the previous. The many soap inside gags only go so far.  Marshall throws in a little nudity to show us he's no longer indentured to network censors. In some ways, the worst kind of movie failure is one that can't make us laugh, heck, even smile, when it tries so hard.  Those ZAZ guys knew how to engineer a silly farce/spoof, but  YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE is one of too many imitators that proves just how difficult comedy really is.

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