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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

The Sad Sack (1957)



Reviews and Comments

Jerry Lewis plays a private in the army that has such a knack for trouble (one time he lost a tank), that the army doesn't know what to do with him. He's transferred time and again until a female military psychologist runs across him and resolves to shape him into a good soldier. What follows is mostly predictable: in a series of episodic sketches, Lewis unwittingly wreaks utter havoc, as much for two of his grim-faced companions -- out to settle a score with him -- as for himself. Of course it all works out in the end, entirely by accident. Some of it's funny; some of it isn't. A small but funny role by Peter Lorre helps.

One aspect of the film seems way out of whack, however. The obligatory romantic subplot involves not Lewis but a mostly unsympathetic co-star. Why? As it doesn't involve characters we care about, all it does is shift focus away from where our sympathies lie. This was typical of films early in Jerry Lewis's solo career: It took a while, after Dean Martin was no longer playing the romantic lead to Lewis' comic sidekick, for the writers to realize that Lewis could pull off a naive, boyish romantic lead himself. Missteps like this one must have been an effective lesson.