Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

If there’s a God then why do people suffer?

I’ve just been to see Old Dogs. You’ll remember that we discussed the trailer a while back. This is that thing in which crinkly faced casual psychopath Robin Williams and unlikely laydeees man John Travolta have to cope with boisterous …

Wed, Mar 3, 2010, 22:14

   

I’ve just been to see Old Dogs. You’ll remember that we discussed the trailer a while back. This is that thing in which crinkly faced casual psychopath Robin Williams and unlikely laydeees man John Travolta have to cope with boisterous seven-year-old twins. I’m not allowed to say what I thought of the film yet (Blah, blah, embargoes. You know the drill by now), but I am minded to address one of the most baffling questions of the day: Who likes Robin Williams?

2002_one_hour_photo_001.jpg

You can use this photo to scare away hungry bears, ma’am.”

Over the last decade or so, I have taken every opportunity to make borderline-libelous remarks about the nauseatingly unfunny screen personae inhabited by Mr Williams. From time to time, someone has mailed to say I am being a little harsh. “The phrase ‘beheading is too good for him’ was overdoing it, Clarke,” they don’t actually write. “I don’t believe you would actually ‘claw your pancreas out with a rusty corkscrew rather than hear the words “Patch Adams” again’” they never say. But nobody — that’s nobody — has ever written in to defend him.

I occasionally read pieces in American organs arguing that, when allowed to improvise, his true genius shines through like a supernova. I can’t agree. In fact, to my mind, that’s when he’s at his most annoying. A Scottish journalist of my acquaintance barely got through an interview without punching the man. Throughout the conversation, Williams delivered his answers in a “comical” Scottish accent that bordered on the genuinely offensive. “Och ye wee haggis of sporran, ye. Will ye gee us a wee highland jig.” That sort of thing.

The obvious exceptions to the general awfulness of Williams are those roles in which he is actually supposed to be a clammy-palmed creep. Here’s the thing though. His performance in, say, Fathers Day and his turn in One-Hour Photo¬† are really not all that different. In both he has the look of a terminally sad man who can’t get through a sentence without considering the unavoidable advance of death. After watching both films, you feel the need to scrub yourself with carbolic soap.

So who the hell does like Robin Williams? He has been a major star for well over three decades and he still gets paid a fortune for each of his increasingly awful films. Is it you? Own up. Do you like Robin Williams?

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