Hope and Crosby have to flee Melbourne in order to avoid two marriage proposals, and find themselves in Bali, where they find themselves vying for the attention of the Princess and are targeted by thieves.
Great comedy duos know how to work material - no matter what shape it's in. A script could be in pitch-perfect shape, feature refined dialogue with exceptional plotting comedic bits designed to put an audience into fits of laughter. Some scripts, aren't that well refined. At best, a great comedy duo is barely given an outline to work with. The plot may be there, there might be a few scripted scenarios and scenes to help move the plot forward, but beyond that, the team is in the weeds left to come up with great laugh-inducing material on the fly. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope with their regular female foil Dorothy Lamour find themselves with a thin, bare to the bones plot with Road to Bali. Even with a thin story, Bing's singing, Hope's one-liners, and Lamour's tenacious ability to keep up with the two ensures the final picture is whimsically hilarious.
George and Harold (Crosby and Hope) sure can draw a crowd throughout Australia. Folks all over the outback eat up their American song and dance routine. The only problem is that George and Harold have a bit of a reputation with the ladies - and these rustic gal's boomerang and bullwhip-toting fathers don't like that. When the pair get run out of Melbourne, George and Harold are recruited as deep sea divers to recover a lost treasure that belonged to the late father of Princess Lala (Dorothy Lamour). Once George and Harold get the treasure, they're going to have to deal with Lala's jealous cousin, a giant squid, wild apes, killer tigers, and a tribe of headhunters before their adventure is over!
As the sixth of the famous Road films featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, it's nice to see a series that doesn't get tired and managed to stay fresh and fun. While there may not be a lot of new material with Road to Bali, Hope and Crosby are spry and nimble performers who bend the thin script to their whimsy. There is a very clear point about forty minutes into the film's 91-minute runtime where it becomes very clear that the script was pretty much tossed out the window. Some simple scene setups and song and dance numbers are the only planned and scripted elements leaving Crosby and Hope to do what they do best - ad lib. The pair fire off jokes and jabs with ease and they're just as funny as they were in their previous adventure Road to Rio.
Road to Bali may not be the best of the bunch featuring Crosby and Hope, but the pair delivers some of their best bits precisely because they're working with a very thin story. They manage to get some impressive mileage out of a snake charming bit where a sexy woman rises out of the basket instead of a snake. Some great cameos pepper themselves throughout including an appearance by Humphrey Bogart via clips from The African Queen. The setup for that gag was great in its own way but when Hope discovers Bogart's Oscar statue on the shore, he's given the chance to finally deliver the speech he's always wanted - because Bing's "already got one." There's even a bizarre dream sequence which leads to a funny howdy do from Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis - Bob Hope and Bing Crosby would drop by Scared Stiff the following year to return the favor. Also, keep an eye out at the beginning of the film for Carolyn Jones from House of Wax 3-D and the original The Adams Family in one of her very first roles! Manic, out-of-nowhere moments like these is what keeps Road to Bali a lively and entertaining delight.
After watching Road to Rio, My Favorite Brunette, and now Road to Bali in relatively quick succession, there's a big piece of me that wants to knock upside the head whoever told me Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movies weren't funny. I wrote off my faded childhood memories as nostalgia and for years never gave these films their due consideration. Granted, Bing isn't really in My Favorite Brunette, but the sentiment is just the same - these are funny movies. Sure, they're not very complicated films, maybe not the most sophisticated things ever made, but they were clever, witty, often hilarious, and never dull. To that end, it's amazing to me that Paramount failed to copyright these three films and they ended up in the public domain. If your brand of comedy is a bunch of slapstick, sight gags, and improv with a few song and dance numbers - Bob Hope and Bing Crosby deliver the goods with these movies. So take your pick, Road to Rio, My Favorite Brunette, or Road to Bali, either one should get you laughing quick.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Road to Bali arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case and comes with a booklet containing cover artwork for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
As the first and only Road film to be shot in color, Road to Bali makes a grand entrance with this 1.33:1 1080p transfer. This is just a bright, bold, and colorful picture that looks stunning. Fine film grain is apparent with a nice film-like appearance and is only notably heavier or noisy during a few optical transitions and a couple effects shots. Details are strong allowing you to appreciate facial features, costuming, and the fake plastic plants and in a few shots spot the background curtain. Colors are the real winner here. As a break from Hope and Crosby's previous black-and-white films, Road to Bali sports the sort of vivid primaries only a classic Technicolor film can produce. Reds, yellows, get their play, but blues are a big feature of the show and Bing's eyes stand out as a bright spot. Black levels are strong throughout giving the image a nice sense of depth and dimension. The source print -- aside from the frames surrounding the previously mentioned optical effects -- is clean and free of any damage or debris. For a film of this vintage with its status as a public domain feature, this is a near-flawless video presentation that should please fans.
As with its video counterpart, Road to Bali enjoys a robust English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. It could be that the source elements are in better shape or that a bit more cash was tossed towards this production, but Road to Bali feels like it has a lot more life to it than Road to Rio. Not that Rio had bad audio, I thought it was perfectly good for a film of that vintage, but after watching these films one after another, it's easy to hear the differences. For starters, vocal work during the film's song and dance numbers is a little cleaner, crisper, and feels a bit more fresh - less like a dubbed in recording. Sound effects are also given a lot more range with the setting of the film being on the ocean and a lush jungle island. Atmospherics get a little bit of a workout as well. Free of any age-related issues or anomalies, Road to Bali sounds magnificent.
With Road to Bali, we're given a great commentary track featuring film historians Michael Schlesinger and Mark Evanier. The pair knows their stuff and provides a lot of production trivia as well as some interesting behind the scenes bits. Also included is the promo reel featuring other Bob Hope movies that were found on Road to Rio and My Favorite Brunette.
Audio Commentary featuring film historians Michael Schlesinger and Mark Evanier
Also from KLSC (HD 4:17)
Bob Hope and Bing Crosby may not reinvent the comedy wheel with Road to Bali, but they didn't have to. Instead of delivering plot and story, the pair along with their frequent collaborator Dorothy Lamour instead focus on doing what they do best - entertaining audiences. Plot and story are quickly tossed out the window in favor of a barrage of gags, jokes, and nonsense that never fails to make you laugh. Hope and Crosby are in their element with Road to Bali. Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done a terrific job with this Blu-ray release providing a stellar A/V presentation for fans. The bonus feature package is a little better than their previous Hope/Crosby releases with a strong audio commentary track. Road to Bali is a hilariously great way to spend an evening if you just need to turn your brain off and relax after a long day. Recommended.