The Pryor/Wilder Quartet – Another You

Another You (1991, dir. Maurice Phillips)

another-you

Eddie (Pryor) is a con-man that got caught and must fulfill 100 hours of community service per his probation. He ends up as the caretaker of George (Wilder), a recent mental hospital patient and reformed pathological liar. It doesn’t take too long in the outside world, and George is back to his old habits due to a case of mistaken identity. He’s thought to be Abe Fielding, the heir to a brewery empire and Eddie sees this as an opportunity to make some bank. A villain pops up in the form of Fielding’s business manager (Stephen Lang), but the twists and conceits used to get to the finale are incredibly convoluted and messy.

Another You was made in the period where Richard Pryor was succumbing to the effects of Multiple Sclerosis. He had announced his diagnosis four years earlier but it was this film that showed the public just how badly he was losing the battle. The film tries to work around it but it’s obvious when we see him being steadied by other actors in scenes and the way he tremors through the picture. Gene Wilder had done one film after See No Evil and prior to this one, Funny About Love, that was a box office failure. This would be the final film appearance of both actors. They would make the occasional television appearance and Wilder would star in his short-lived sitcom, but feature films would never be a medium they returned to.

It’s no wonder they gave up on movies after this. Another You is an unmitigated disaster. Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon) had been hired to direct but quit after five weeks and Maurice Phillips was brought in as a replacement. Phillips and his editor showcase their complete ineptitude to construct a cohesive story. If reasonable minds had prevailed Pryor would have been left out of this because it becomes painful to watch him being forced through the picture despite his condition. It’s a nod to him that he just decides to say “fuck it” and do his own thing despite the movie happening around him. The picture is riddled with external car shots that have sloppy post-production ADR plastered over them expositing on plot points the director realized were unclear. The story is a complete mess that shifts its focus about three times and ends up in a confusing unfunny place, with relationship resolutions that are completely unearned by the script.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Richard Pryor became the focus of a myriad of television documentaries about his stand-up career. His actual appearances were limited to a few and in 2005 he passed away due to complications from a heart attack. Gene Wilder tried his hand at television sitcoms in his own, Something Wilder; that was cancelled after a single season. He was seen in the television film version of Alice in Wonderland, playing the Mock Turtle. He subsequently starred in and wrote a duo of mystery films for A&E focused on a theater director turned investigator. In more recent memory, Wilder had a two-episode stint on Will and Grace as Will’s unbalanced boss. Wilder passed away in 2016 from complications of Alzheimer’s

The films of Pryor and Wilder never got better than Silver Streak. The key was that Silver Streak was a tightly scripted movie. Their subsequent films gave them lots of space to ad lib and mug, and that needed to be much rarer and tightly edited in post to be genuinely funny. For people around my age, I think we look back through the fog of nostalgia at these two men’s work together because with a crisper, more recent viewing of it I see there were a lot of problems. Somewhere, in some parallel reality, they were able to partner on Blazing Saddles, and movie houses are showing it on repeat for their Wilder retrospectives.

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