Road to Utopia (1946)

“Are you sure they’re the right men? They don’t look like killers to me.”

Synopsis:
A pair of vaudeville performers (Bob Hope and Bing Crosby) traveling to Alaska impersonate a pair of fugitive killers named Sperry (Robert Barrat) and McGurk (Jack LaRue), and fall in love with a singer (Dorothy Lamour) determined to secure a coveted map stolen from her father.

Genres:

Review:
Although its predecessor (Road to Morocco) tends to get the bulk of the fame and glory of the Road to… series, I’ll admit to enjoying this next entry even a bit more. As noted by Mike Bracken in his Epinions review, at this point in the series’ history, the films’ essential plot elements — “Hope and Crosby wind up in a mess, meet Dorothy, compete for her, and sing a few songs along the way” — were already securely in place, thus allowing the comedic duo plenty of creative room to simply do what they did so well together (all while slyly breaking the fourth wall of cinema by commenting on the making of the film itself). Possessing a storyline just as silly as all the others in the series — with perhaps just a tad more narrative cohesion and logic — the primary enjoyment here lies in the series of running gags, most of which are quite amusing.

In an interesting twist, the film (structured as an extended flashback sequence) opens up by showing Lamour and Hope as an aging married couple, thus piquing audience interest immediately, given that Crosby was notoriously the “winner” time and again in their never-ending rivalry for Lamour’s affections. The suspense of how this unexpected pairing came about pays off in a remarkably risque denouement, which must be seen to be believed (seriously). I’m not voting this film “must see”, because I’ve already applied that designation to two other entries in the series, and film fanatics shouldn’t have to sit through more than that unless they choose to — but this one is certainly recommended if you’re at all a fan of Hope-and-Crosby’s silly, self-referential humor.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Hope and Crosby’s characteristically enjoyable rivalry and rapport
  • Fun meta-cinematic commentary
  • The astonishingly risque final shot

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended as one of the better films in the series — and should definitely be checked out simply for that last scene! Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Road to Utopia (1946)”

  1. Well, waddaya know: a ‘Road to…’ movie I feel reasonably confident to ‘once-must’.

    This one has an even more successful script than the rather-successful one for ‘Road to Rio’ – so if ffs feel compelled to take in at least one ‘Road to…’ movie, I’d point in this direction.

    Thanks largely go to writers Norman Panama and Melvin Frank (the pros who gave us ‘The Court Jester’). As well as understanding comedy, they understand plot construction, timing and economy. All of that is put to fine use here. (I especially like the extremely short scenes that swiftly shift us to where we need to be next.)

    More than the other films in this series, ‘RTU’ probably also benefits from the best production design and the sharpest direction (Hal Walker).

    Songs here, as usual in a ‘Road to…’ flick, tend to be on the weak side – but Lamour has a very nice turn with the clever ‘Personality’. (The song could easily have been longer.)

    Though I am not at all a fan of this series, I must admit that a real attempt has been made here toward a solid, satisfying piece of entertainment. It’s still a slight miss for me, but that’s alright – it’s pleasant and worthy enough of a viewing.

    Fave bit: Two bears visiting the cabin.

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