When you think of all-star comedies, this over-the-top extravaganza of excess is probably the first that comes to mind. The huge cast—Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Edie Adams, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Jonathan Winters, Ethel Merman, Terry-Thomas, Phil Silvers and many others race across Southern California in pursuit of a dying thief’s (Jimmy Durante) buried loot. Director Stanley Kramer was better known for serious liberal message movies (The Defiant Ones, Judgment at Nuremberg); the message here seems to be that greed is wasteful and destructive, though it’s hard to watch this movie without marveling at how much Kramer must have spent on this three-hour demolition derby, whether on set pieces like a raging Winters destroying a gas station with his bare hands or on casting comic legends like Jack Benny or the Three Stooges in scenes that amount to just a few seconds of screen time. Even Spencer Tracy, as the world-weary cop who starts out as the film’s moral center, succumbs to the madness. You’ll laugh, but you’ll feel drained and exhausted by the end.
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