Thursday, April 30, 2015

FIRE SALE (1977) - Alan Arkin

"Can I jive on you a minute?
I want to speak to you, honky to honky."

Arkin as Ezra Fikus, the world's losing-est high school basketball coach, attempting to recruit a new African American dunking whiz on the playground. I read that Fire Sale was supposed to be a dud but wanted to give it a try since I enjoyed Arkin's only other feature directing effort, Little Murders. It's very BROAD and many of the jokes are dead-on-arrival brick shots. Everybody's yelling at each other at top volume the whole time. But there are few good gags, many to do with Rob Reiner (Meathead!) as Arkin's very asthmatic brother, and Ezra's attempts to satisfy his wife's baby fever by adopting a 6'8" power forward named Booker T ("He'll be great for the team!").

The fire insurance scam at the center of the film also rang a few old alarm bells. I wrote a screenplay years ago where insurance fraud/arson figured heavily into the plot. At the time, I wanted nothing more to get Alan Arkin on board as the lead and had never heard of this, his second directorial effort. He graciously declined (or, shall I say, his agent did), but I have to wonder now if it's because he had already been burned by his own fire insurance flick. Whatever the case, Fire Sale is only for Arkin devotees, a club to which I suppose I'm still a card carrying member after all these years.

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