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WHOLLY MOSES

title: WHOLLY MOSES!
year: 1980
cast: Dudley Moore, Laraine Newman
rating: ***

A year before Mel Brooks’ HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1, Gary Weiss – who provided unique short films throughout the original Saturday Night Live episodes – directed a satire on old school Biblical epics. There’s an all-star cast ranging from Richard Pryor as a temperamental Pharaoh and John Ritter as a slacker Devil, but it’s Dudley Moore and Laraine Newman that own this tale. Beginning in modern times on a bus tour through the Holy Land, Moore and Newman discover a scroll in a cave telling the story of Herschel, a man who… like Brian in Monty Python’s famous send-up on the Christ story… nearly became Moses. Sent downstream by neurotic father James Coco, baby Herschel almost makes it into the queen’s arms but is pushed away by a smarter child (guess who). Skip twenty years later, a guilt-ridden Coco pretends to be Herschel’s slave in a shop dealing in pagan god idols: a hilarious setup for some of the film’s best one-liners. Here’s where Newman… now Zerelda, stepsister of Moses… reenters our tale. Newman and Moore display the kind of infectious chemistry that elevates the slapdash template into an endearing romantic comedy without getting mushy. Newman, who can play just about any type of character... from a sexy ingĂ©nue to a vulnerable wallflower… provides the spontaneous eclectic energy that made her a hit on the original SNL – her background in improvisation really shines through. And as Moore’s likable underdog travels from Sodom and Gomorrah to the Burning Bush itself, he overhears God’s words to Moses and believes he’s the chosen one – and thereafter is sent into war; fills the shoes of David fighting Goliath; and takes part in an orgy, sort of. This is a relaxing comedy that pays off even during the unfunny moments since there’s something new around every bend.  [And check out Laraine Newman’s FACEBOOK FANPAGE and OFFICIAL WEBSITE]
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