Let It Ride

The racetrack comedy never has been a movie staple. That may explain why director Joe Pytka’s deliberate homage to the old Damon Runyon formula came and went in theaters with the speed of Secretariat. But Let It Ride is one of those rare theatrical flops that truly deserve success on home video. It’s the most charming comedy since, well, Local Hero, anyone?

Richard Dreyfuss stars as a Miami cabdriver who lucks into a Sure Thing. The complications that follow are essentially stock, but screenwriter Ernest Morton has an unerring, Preston Sturges-like ear for the American vernacular and affection for the small-time eccentrics who speak it. The result is a script studded with endearing characters brought to life by a nearly flawless cast.

This is the kind of farce where hoodlums wear flammable shoes, and rich floozies (Michelle Phillips) respond to invitations to drinks with lines like ”I don’t see why not; I’m on the pill.” And even rock star David Johansen turns in an Oscar-caliber performance as an amiable dunce.

The picture bogs down in its romantic interludes, but its smoke-fillillbeer joints and its Chariots of Fire-style racing scenes lose nothing on the small screen. Its virtues may be derived from the diminished expectations of an audience weaned on John Hughes movies, but Let It Ride seems like one of the few contemporary comedies that has staying power. An genuinely unexpected pleasure.

Let It Ride
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