From the title, all the way to the very end scene, 'What's Up Doc?' never hides the fact that at its core it's just a live action 'Looney Toons' episode. The film, starring a very young Barbra Streisand, harkens back to the screwball farces of yesteryear, where characters dash around after something,while running into each other again and again in increasingly bizarre situations.
The setup: four different guests converge on the same hotel, all traveling with the same plaid carrying case. Dr. Howard Bannister (Ryan O'Neal) has come for a musicology conference, his plaid bag is full of prehistoric rocks. Judy Maxwell (Streisand) is a con-women who pries her way into situations in order to get stuff for free. Her bag contains women's underwear. A rich old lady checks into the hotel, her bag is full of precious gems. Finally, a man who is about to reveal top secret evidence about the government checks in, his bag is full of sensitive government documents.
It's true that you can sit there and wonder how exactly all these people have the same peculiar bag (and it may take you forever to try and figure out which bag is where as they start switching around). Maybe that bag was all the rage back then, who knows. All we have to know is that the bags are MacGuffins that switch hands from one player to another. As the mix ups continue, the situations become increasingly strange, leading up to a hilarious scene where Judy hangs from the building ledge in only a towel as Dr. Bannister accidentally begins burning down his hotel.
There's not much to get when it comes to farces. You just have to sit back and enjoy what they throw at you. Some farces rely far too heavily on situational humor and not enough on pure character interaction, but that's where 'What's Up Doc?' really succeeds.
The chemistry between the fun-loving Streisand and the uptight O'Neal is perfect. Streisand delivers her lines at a lightning fast pace, it's almost hard to keep up with her she's talking so fast. The banter between the characters is reminiscent of the back-and-forth performed by Abbot and Costello when they did their "Who's On First" routine. That's what makes 'What's Up Doc?' such a fun little movie. Director Peter Bogdanovich ('The Last Picture Show') has not only put together a movie with numerous comical situations, but he's also able to maintain a sense of underlying cleverness in the dialog.
The action is fun and plentiful; culminating into a car chase that rivals some of the best performed even today, and this was made in 1972. Screwball comedies like this can be very entertaining if you're in the right mood. After seeing a subpar farce like the newly released 'Dinner for Schmucks' I was ready for a movie that really knew what it was doing when it came to situational humor and this is it.
For a film from 1972, Warner Brothers really seems to have taken good care of 'What's Up Doc?.' The film looks about as polished and perfect as it possibly could. Being an older catalog title I wasn't expecting much, but this 1080p presentation is just short of amazing. You'd expect a title this old to be littered with source noise, but the entire image – as far as I could tell – was wiped clean of any distracting noise. A thin layer of grain persists throughout the whole movie, but that just adds to its old cinematic charm. Sure soft shots run throughout, but the overall clarity of the picture is brilliant. Fine detail on textures like the plaid bag or Streisand's many outfits is outstanding. At one point Madeline Kahn is dragged from the conference with her heels scraping along the floor, leaving a long black line on the hardwood. It's striking how clear that line is while she's being pulled out of the room. One of the many times you may be wowed during this presentation.
Colors are bright and vibrant with reds in particular standing out. The red on the plaid bags is outstanding. Streisand's blue eyes glow. Everything about this transfer oozes retro color. Simply put I'm amazed at the job Warner has done with this title. It looks as good as it's ever going to look.
Yes it's true that 'What's Up Doc?' features a DTS-HD Master Audio sound presentation. Too bad it's only using one speaker the entire time. Yes, I understand that the recording methods of the time didn't allow for surround tracks and all that, but this is a movie that would have greatly benefited from future sound technology. As it is the 1.0 track does a commendable job. Granted its range is very limited, higher sounds like screams and crunching car metal against metal give off an almost high-pitched screech. Dialog though, is presented cleanly and clearly. Even though it's coming through the same channel as each and every sound effect and even though Streisand delivers her lines as fast as she can, each word is still audible.
For being just a mono-track, Warner has done a great job restoring the sound so we can hear everyone talk and enjoy the symphony of sounds that happen when the action reaches top speed. Even though a track like this would never be used as demo-material to the casual movie watcher, finely tuned audiophile ears will find a lot to like in this simple yet effective audio presentation.
'What's Up Doc?' shows us what we're missing in today's screwball comedy wannabes. It's a hilarious ride on the coattails of Streisand, who completely takes over the film in her own captivating way. Couple this great movie with a stellar video presentation and an adequately restored mono-track audio presentation and you've got yourself a great catalog title worth a recommendation for sure.