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It’s possible that a lot of people reading this site only know Don Rickles from the Toy Story movies. What a shame. Rickles is a show business legend, and for good reason. John Landis’ documentary about the man is often incredibly funny and even occasionally sweet and touching, and it really gives you an excellent education not just in Rickles but in the entire Golden Age of Hollywood.
That’s probably the stuff I like the best in Mr. Warmth: seeing the old guys interacting, the nearly mythological figures of show business two generations ago. Everybody from Johnny Carson to Frank Sinatra to Bob Newhart, who takes cruises with Rickles (my very favorite piece of information in the whole film).
Landis isn’t just making a biography. Drawing heavily from a 2006 Vegas performance that shows that Rickles’ insult comedy is as strong as ever, the director is putting the man in his context, especially helpful for a younger audience who knows hockey pucks and little else about Rickles’ routines. And those routines can be pretty edgy.
Mr. Warmth is the second documentary Landis has made in recent years. His Masters of Horror stuff was… cute, but I wonder if this is where his twilight filmmaking days lie.