Friday, July 8, 2011

Bringing Up Baby. B+

In classic screwball comedies, the general plot is rarely considered to be of much consequence. It's what occurs within the plot that determines if the movie's any good. What makes Bringing Up Baby somewhat of a departure from the usual screwball romp is that, while the antics and chaos within the story seem familiar, the set-up is entirely unique. Cary Grant isn't a reporter, but a paleontologist seeking the final bone for his brontosaurus skeleton. And while his female counterpart (Katherine Hepburn) is a typically reckless and impetuous rich girl, her mysterious possession of a massive tame leopard makes the movie a complete original. A real doozy. The leopard is what drives the movie, what makes it such an absurd and amusing experience. And the thing is the film's hardly romantic at all. Hepburn's character has secret plans to marry Grant, but he's so preoccupied with escaping her and the terrible situation she's put him in that even if he liked her, love wouldn't be on his mind. This movie is a very busy one, and I almost wish that it had left out what little love story it has and just focused on all the bedlam. But it's a common truth that there's a code to these movies, a formula rooted in them that can't really be dug out. So when Grant and Hepburn end up together at the end, it feels almost like director Howard Hawks is following an obligatory conclusion. I know it's screwball, but I didn't buy the closing one bit. But I suppose that there can be some satisfaction in knowing that these two vastly different characters may in fact need each other to balance their lives out. Bringing Up Baby may be a screwball lover's paradise. To me it's just a trifle, but an excellent one at that.

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