Man of the Century

1999 comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Newspaperman Johnny Twennies is threatened by some gangsters who want him to write a fake story about the death of their boss. Honest Johnny doesn't want to do it. While trying to fix that problem, he's trying to deal with his artist girlfriend, a mother who is trying to arrange a marriage for him, and a new girl he's met who he wants to help out.

Despite the lame plot synopsis, this one's a unique treat. The comedy is so low-key or dry that almost don't realize it's a comedy at all. It reminded me most of The American Astronaut, and just like that one, this definitely won't appeal to everybody. At a brisk 77 minutes, this still has time for lengthy scenes of the main character walking up long flights of stairs (with a song about how he's a "dig-dig-a-doo man by nature") and a crazy spontaneous swing number. The soundtrack is all gypsy jazz and scratchy swing, appropriate since the protagonist is a walking anachronism, a guy living in modern times but who roars like he's in the 1920s. He taps out his column on a manual typewriter, dresses like the guy on the above poster (he is, in fact, the guy on the above poster), and uses language stuffed with the period's slang. It's a random quirk that's never explained. Random but fun ideas make up the bulk of this actually. At one point, the character goes to work via a secret passageway that ends in a trash can in his office. I really liked how the first 85% of the movie had this stream-of-conscious thing with random characters popping in and out and seeming to have nothing to do with anything until the end where it all comes together in a completely random and unbelievable way. Sort of. Not all of the humor works though. Take the following dialogue, for example:

Woman: Are you gay?
Johnny: Of course I am--gay as a day in May!
Woman: Oh, are you bi?
Johnny: By myself mostly.

Don't let that turn you away from this one, however. This is an oft-clever, charming breath of fresh air.

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