A scene from 'Get Bruce'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 72 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, September 17, 1999
Directed by Andrew Kuehn

Featuring Bruce Vilanch, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Riser

Interview with Bruce Vilanch


Little more than a TV special profile anyway, "Get Bruce!" will be fine on the small screen. But why rent? It will be running on A&E or Comedy Central within the year.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 2/29/2000

'Get Bruce!" a pure fluff docu about Hollywood's No.1 comedy writer

By Rob Blackwelder

Amusing mostly for its celebrity interview rants, "Get Bruce!" is a love-letter documentary about Bruce Vilanch, Hollywood's behind-the-scenes court jester who has made a career of writing the one-liners that keep America from changing channels during otherwise dull awards shows.

An affable wise-acre with a shaggy sheepdog blond mane and beard, who perpetually sports goofy T-shirts and glasses with brightly colored rims, Vilanch is just the kind of guy you might expect to see profiled on Bravo, A&E or Comedy Central -- and just what inspired Miramax to release this obliging but shallow fluff piece to theaters is a mystery.

Vilanch is entertaining enough as he recalls behind-the-scenes Oscar night escapades and spouts spot-on insights about celebrity friends, but most of the movie is those celebrities responding in kind -- and at length.

Director Andrew Kuehn, who practically invented the modern art of the movie trailer and therefore is in the habit of the hard sell, gives Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes each of screen time to sing Bruce's praises. Other congratulatory pats on the back come courtesy of Paul Riser, Lily Tomlin, Rosanne, Shirley McLaine, Carol Burnett, Nathan Lane and more.

The movie quickly traces Vilanch's unusual career from his class clown childhood and his brief stint at the Chicago Tribune, through is big break writing for the "Brady Bunch Variety Hour" and "Donnie and Marie," to his current status as the entertainment industry's go-to guy when laughs are required for anything live (awards shows, charity benefits, celebrity roasts and televised specials). He's also the head writer for the new "Hollywood Squares."

But while we certainly come to recognize Vilanch as a unique talent who is just inherently hilarious almost all the time, "Get Bruce!" reveals little about who he is or how he works.

In its first five minutes the movie establishes that he's very large, very funny and openly gay in that delightful, friendly way that seems to put people at ease.

When the movie's over, little additional information has been gleaned about its subject, but you've laughed a lot at the sometimes spontaneous, sometimes staged quips from the celebrity praise parade.

Feather-light fare, "Get Bruce!" was originally conceived for television (it's even shot on video), and television is where it belongs. When it does air on your basic cable, it will be an enjoyable distraction while you iron clothes or polish silver. But it's not worth shelling out eight bucks to see.


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