I’ve found myself going through screwball comedies in the midst of the Coronavirus and What’s Up, Doc? is one of the best I’ve watched recently. I’ve found the best way to measure them is how consistently funny they can be through hilarious and sometimes improbable situations. All of the screwball comedies I’ve watched have one or a few of these moments. Some of the funny situations land, others don’t, and the inconsistency of them can make the film feel uneven.
The car chase and hotel room fire scenes are the highlights for me, but What’s Up, Doc? doesn’t rely on these bigger moments. Throughout its duration, the film is funny through character reactions, physical comedy, its dialogue, and overall plot. The film is certainly a homage to the many screwball comedies that have come before it, but What’s Up, Doc? feels very much like its own, not an imitator of the classics.
Streisand found the perfect balance of charm and annoyance. Ryan O’Neal’s character could be interpreted as unrealistically aloof, but O’Neal’s performance breathes so much life into a no-nonsense character that could have become an eye-rolling, cardboard cut-out.
Peter Bogdanovich pulled off something special here. I’ve rarely found a screwball comedy to feel somewhat rooted in reality, laugh-out-loud funny, consistently engaging, and have it stick the landing. What’s Up, Doc? is definitely a must-see.