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While we all know Dick Van Dyke acted in the Disney film, Mary Poppins, few realize that he has acted in two other films for Disney (not counting his cameo in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day).
He’s soon to have a FOURTH Disney film under his belt!
Today, we take a look at one of those two lesser-known Disney films of his: Never a Dull Moment! Does the film live up to its title? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film opens with what appears to be Dick Van Dyke holding a gun while hiding out in a building from some cops.
As it turns out, it isn’t real. It’s just a movie being filmed.
Dick Van Dyke plays Jack Albany, a character actor who has bit parts in films as well as some theater performances. He enjoys his work which later turns out to be a useful quality. As he walks home that night, he notices someone following him, so he quickly ducks into a nearby warehouse to escape the figure.
In the warehouse, he bumps into a young guy named Florian, played by Tony Bill. Jack tries to apologize for barging in and explains his predicament. Florian tells Jack that he was being followed by a cop, but now that Ace Williams is here at the warehouse, they can head straight to Mr. Smooth’s residence as expected.
So, here’s the situation: Florian works for a gangster named Mr. Smooth. Mr. Smooth was expecting the arrival of a dangerous gangster named Ace Williams whom he’s never met before. But, he’s told Florian to go to the warehouse where he’ll meet Ace Williams. Now that Jack has walked into the warehouse, Florian assumes that this is Ace Williams. Jack tries to explain how he’s just an actor and not Ace Williams, but when he sees that Florian may get violent, he quickly gets into his acting mode and pretends to be the rough and tough Ace Williams.
Florian then drives Jack to Mr. Smooth’s mansion where Jack meets Mr. Smooth for the first time. Mr. Smooth, played by Edward G. Robinson, is pleased to see “Ace Williams” and through their interactions, Jack learns more about what’s going on and continues to pretend to be Ace Williams. Apparently, Ace was called here to perform a big job for Mr. Smooth alongside his other heavies who are at the mansion as well.
The heavies are played by Slim Pickens, Richard Bakalyan, Mickey Shaughnessy, Ned Glass, Philip Coolidge, and Henry Silva. Also at the mansion are Mr. Smoother’s wife, Melanie, played by Joanna Moore, and Mr. Smooth’s personal art instructor, Sally, played by Dorothy Provine.
As Jack meets all these characters, he tries to find a way to escape whilst maintaining his Ace Williams persona. However, it seems impossible to leave the mansion. There’s an armed guard at the front, a guard dog at the back, a telephone whose switchboard is operated by one of the heavies, etc. He even tries to surreptitiously explain to Sally that he’s not who he says he is (since she’s the only one there not really a part of the gang), but she doesn’t believe him and thinks he’s just trying to flirt with her.
Soon after, Mr. Smooth explains the big job he has planned to Jack and the other heavies. He wants them to steal a famous painting by Dubreaux called Field of Sunflowers from the Manhattan Museum of Art. The painting is 40 feet long and worth $600,000. Mr. Smooth wants his gang to steal it for him so that he can keep it until he dies. Then once he’s dead, he will have the painting donated back to the museum along with money as long as the name of the museum is changed to the Leo Joseph Smooth Memorial Museum.
How will his gang do this? The next day, there is a reception being held at the museum. The gang will infiltrate it by pretending to be part of the catering service. Until then, everyone is required to stay at the mansion. Sally, not being a part of the gang, is at first allowed to leave, but when she accidentally walks into the meeting and sees the picture of the Field of Sunflowers, Mr. Smooth feels that she might be a liability. He tells her that she must stay the night as well. Sally doesn’t want to, but realizes that she can’t argue with Mr. Smooth.
As the night goes on, more trouble arrives for Jack when the real Ace Williams, played by Jack Elam, shows up at the mansion. Jack plays it off as if this new Ace Williams is a phony, but Mr. Smooth and the other guys aren’t sure whom to believe at the moment. The gangsters then come up with an idea of locking both Aces in the darkened library and the one that walks out alive will be the real Ace.
Jack tries very hard to change everyone’s mind about that plan, but to no avail. He’s locked in the library with the real Ace Williams which is a big nightmare for him as you can imagine! As the real Ace tries to kill Jack, he’s knocked unconscious by a small statue.
Who has knocked Ace out? Well, it’s actually Sally who had come down earlier and hid in the library to try to get to the telephone. She now believes Jack when he tells her that he’s just an actor and the two decide to help each other escape. Right now though, Sally goes back to hide as Jack emerges as the apparent victor to Mr. Smooth and the others.
The gang takes the “fake” Ace Williams to the cellar and locks him there. As everyone heads to bed for the night, Jack meets up with Sally and tells her about the planned art robbery. She says that Jack should continue to play the part of Ace Williams until tomorrow and then escape when he gets the chance. The next morning, as most of the guys are out on the art robbery, Sally uses this time to her advantage and escapes.
After all of the museum guests have gone home, Mr. Smooth’s plan is sprung into action, but Jack reveals who he really is and double-crosses the gang. This leads to a very clever and enjoyable chase scene sequence in the art museum culminating in the cops arriving on the scene to arrest the gang after Jack causes the fire sprinklers to go off.
The cops arrest everyone except for Mr. Smooth who is waiting back at the warehouse for the delivery of the painting. Jack plots with the cops to go back to the warehouse in a van supposedly holding the painting. But, it’s actually holding more cops who arrest Mr. Smooth. Jack is commended for his bravery throughout his ordeal and is reunited with Sally. He then gets the idea to sell his story to Hollywood and play the part himself!
And that was Never a Dull Moment. And honestly, it does indeed live up to its name!
It’s an enjoyable, funny comedy that isn’t heavy in terms of plot, but mainly focuses on Dick Van Dyke’s incredible acting abilities! Seeing him go flawlessly in and out of pretending to be an actor to pretending to be an actor pretending to be a gangster to pretending to be an actor pretending to be a gangster pretending to be drunk is just a joy to behold! Mary Poppins is definitely a better film, but this film showcases Dick Van Dyke’s talents way more!
Most of the other actors give great performances as well including Edward G. Robinson and the rest of the gang. Dorothy Provine gave an average performance and her character could have done more, but that’s more a problem with the script than a problem with her.
If you’re just looking for a funny, enjoyable Disney flick with a clever museum-based climax, check out Never a Dull Moment!
So, the final score for this film is 31/35 = 88.57% (B+) !
The next review will be posted on May 8, 2018.
4 thoughts on “Never a Dull Moment (1968)”
This sounds interesting to watch. Funny that I’ve never even heard of this one.
An interesting fact is that the reason for Dick Van Dyke’s long Disney hiatus is that while he was working on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he made a comment to the press that “this movie’ll out-Disney Disney.” He meant it as a joke, but in practice, it turned out to be a good way to get yourself put on the Disney blacklist for the next 45 years.
Yeah, it’s not a really famous one.
Oh wow, I didn’t know this story!
Strange that I hadn’t even heard of this one until now…
It’s not a really popular one, so it’s not surprising.