The Bank Dick ★★★½

2019 Weekly Comedy Challenge: 6/52 - (Week 6: A W.C. Fields comedy)
OV List Challenge 2019 - Roger Ebert's "Great Movies"

To be completely honest, the main reason I was excited to watch The Bank Dick was because one of my favorite sitcoms while I was growing up (Wings) paid homage to it in an episode with the same name in which Brian (Steven Weber) takes a part-time job as a bank security guard.

I was also excited because, never having seen a W.C. Fields movie, it gave me the opportunity to tweet: "How many fields could a W.C. Fields see if a W.C. Fields could see fields?"

As an introduction to W.C. Fields' work, The Bank Dick has a lot of strength behind it. Here, at least, Fields seems to offer a different brand of humor than Chaplin or Laurel & Hardy. There's a focus on pantomime and physical humor in the work of Chaplin or Stan and Ollie that doesn't take center stage when it comes to Fields. He seems to embrace the sound of the movie and utilizes it well in his line deliveries.

However, while sound is a strength of the movie, I found myself preferring the pantomime and silent era style of Chaplin and the like over Fields' style here. Not to say one or the other is bad, per se. I just have a specific preference.

I liked Fields' truly "everyman" demeanor, though. He was very loveable and relatable in the role. He doesn't play a total airhead or imbecile. Instead, Fields plays up his character's more oblivious qualities. The character has a lax spacial awareness but still retains some seemingly absent-minded cleverness. It's really fun to see that specific characterization played out the way Fields performs it.

Aside from the performance, I have to give a hand to the last 10 minutes of the movie. There is a stunning car chase sequence at the climax of the film. It's highly thrilling and just very fun to watch. The timing and choreography involved is perfectly executed. So much so that I was actually on the edge of my seat watching it. There's one moment in particular where there is a car pursuing Fields' car. They speed down a hill and each turn in opposite directions to drive a circle around a house. The cars make their circle and come incredibly close to hitting one another. It was very cool to watch and the chase is filled with fun moments like that.

I started out this review giving it just 3 stars. But in writing the review, I've talked myself into bumping it to 3.5 stars. I enjoyed The Bank Dick and (this is becoming my catch phrase for the Weekly Comedy Challenge, I'm sure) I'm looking forward to checking out more of W.C. Fields.

Ebert's Great Movies Essay for The Bank Dick (1940)