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Cast your mind back to a time when Steve Martin assumed the mantle of comedic king of the box office, sharing the title with the likes of Chevy Chase, John Candy and Eddie Murphy. Amongst the more inherently zany, audience-pleasers of that era like The Jerk and The Man with Two Brains, Roxanne marked a shift for Martin, proving he was more than capable of playing a grounded, albeit unquestionably quirky, character and a plausible romantic lead. Almost thirty years on from its initial release, the film remains a thoroughly charming affair.
Martin flexes both his comedic chops and once again proves a dab hand in the writing department, crafting an often very humorous contemporary take on the famed 18th century French play, Cyrano de Bergerac. He plays C.D. Bales (geddit?) the fire chief of the small town in British Columbia who happens to possess a snozzle of Pinocchio-like proportions. Well loved by his fellow townsfolk, he’s a witty and erudite fellow, who isn’t afraid to confront those who rib him about his enlarged snout. Into his world comes luminous astronomy graduate Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah) who has taken up temporary residence while she awaits a new comet to pass by.
Bales is immediately smitten, but the object of his affection has her eyes on his handsome employee, Chris (80’s go-to supporting actor Rick Rossovich). Problems arise when the similarly infatuated buff firefighter is revealed to be a bit of a lunkhead who pleads with his superior to help him win the heart of Roxanne. Martin’s comedic shtick here relies much less on the physical and more on his verbal dexterity (his pun-tastic takedown of a belligerent bar patron is the film’s glowing centrepiece) with the slapstick largely provided by Bales’ painfully inept voluntary fire team.
Admittedly it’s a rather slight and fluffy affair, but even as the film gets a little contrived (particularly during the wowing of the titular character, when Bales becomes the literal mouthpiece for the flummoxed Chris) Martin’s warm and winning persona shines through. Hannah once again illustrates why she was considered something of an American sweetheart during the eighties, and what she lacks in dramatic range, she more than makes up for in screen magnetism. Roxanne
is another welcome title in Eureka Entertainment’s slate and fans of Martin will undoubtedly be happy for the chance to get reacquainted with one of his more memorable roles (and films).
Adam Lowes | @adlow76