Wayback Wednesday: Hopscotch (1980)

Welcome to what will hopefully be a long running series! Wayback Wednesday is something I’ve had on my mind to do for a while to both revisit classic movies as well as make my way through my ever growing, but never played Criterion collection. Blending the two enabled me to start this weekly jump into important films. I’m going to play with the format but I kind of think it would be fun to not do a traditional review but instead just outline what I liked and what I didn’t. Let’s dive in shall we!

Hopscotch (1980)

Starring: Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterston, Ned Beatty, Herbert Lom
Directed By: Ronald Meame

Synopsis: Former CIA field officer Miles Kendig is intent on publishing an explosive memoir that will also expose the ‘dirty tricks’ of Myerson, his obnoxious, incompetent, and profane former boss. Myerson and Kendig’s protégé Joe Cutter are repeatedly foiled in their attempts to capture the former agent and stop the publication of his memoir. He cleverly stays one step ahead of his pursuers as the chase hopscotches around America and England.

Hopscotch is a great example of a mid-budget studio film that Hollywood probably wouldn’t make today, even with stars of the caliber of Matthau and Jackson (both had Oscars by the time this came out). The only comparable flick in my mind that seems similar would be 2005’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Both are witty spy capers, with globe trotting intrigue, although Hopscotch is much more measured with it’s approach.

I really enjoyed most of this movie because of this. It’s just a well crafted film. For a comedy, the movie isn’t laugh out loud funny, instead relying on the situations and their results to derive a lot of the humor. The best scene in the movie is when Matthau’s character gets his revenge on Myerson by rigging his house full of firecrackers and inciting the FBI to shoot it up. It’s hilarious to the viewer and I honestly think I preferred this approach to a film like say Get Smart that has jokes and situational comedy.

Matthau is so good at playing a curmudgeon but here he gets to be suave and semi-debonair too, which kind of threw me off. Watching him romance Glenda Jackson was fascinating if a bit weird.

Hopscotch really breezes by and the filmmaking is so solid. The only real qualm I had with the film was the very end, which contained some offensive imagery.

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