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Get Bruce!

a documentary on comedic writer Bruce Vilanch With Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Paul Reiser Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler
Directed by Andrew J. Kuehn

IN SHORT: Get it on video. [Rated [R], 75 minutes]

The funniest man in Hollywood that you've never heard of is named Bruce Vilanch. Cranky has actually seen this guy on stage, in Los Angeles in August '98 at a Hadassah benefit of some kind. Vilanch's opening line was something about being the only Queen on a stage filled with Jewish Princesses (ba-DUM-bah) and the rest of his act wasn't nearly as funny.

Which is why I ducked most of the press screenings of Get Bruce! Cranky remembers watching some of the great pop songwriters of the 40s, 50s and 60s take the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show and proving to the world that while they could write the hits, they couldn't sing worth a damn. Writers are not necessarily good performers and even the best performers need good writers to supplement any idea. Frankly, the star parade of well wishers and other endorsements that fill the first ten minutes of what looked to be an ego puff piece of a flick are enough for the reg'lar folk to give thanks to God for the Second Amendment. Not that you'll want to kill yourself -- that's the one thing that all of us that have had the Near Death Experience can tell you will keep you away from the pearly gates -- but you might feel like taking out documentary film maker Andrew J. Kuehn for puffery above and beyond.

But then . . . when you get to hear what Vilanch has cooked up over the past 20 years . . . Get Bruce! gets funny. So wait until the lights go down before you head out for popcorn. Get on the longest line you can find and, by the time you get back to your seat, this painful stuff should have passed like whatever. What isn't painful is the simple fact that just about anything funny that's come out of the mouths of Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and Paul Reiser at almost any awards show you've seen on television has been manhandled in some way by Bruce Vilanch.

90 minutes of stars telling a camera that a guy is great is tiring after about two minutes. Watching Vilanch and any of the aforementioned stars build their material, or recall how they put it together and what was left on the proverbial cutting room floor is very funny. Clips from various Oscar, Emmy, Grammy or Comic Relief broadcasts, amateur video of Bette Midler's early act are great places to start. Watching ABC Broadcast Standards rep Susan Futterman fumph about the appropriateness of some of the material brought a giggle to this ex-broadcaster's throat.

But Robin Williams ad-libbing on camera alone nails the recommendation which, as most of Vilanch's work seen here was made for the small screen, is rental level.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Get Bruce!, he would have paid...


Vilanch has made a ton of bucks in the biz and has paid it back with a tremendous amount of charity work. It was at these charity benefits where most of the stars seen were corralled for their interviews. Vilanch has written for the Williams-Goldberg-Crystal "Comic Relief" conglomeration. Call 800-323-5275.

Click to buy films starring Robin Williams
Click to buy films starring Whoopi Goldberg
Click to buy films starring Billy Crystal

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2016   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.