Comics in crisis -- Mel Brooks, Billy Crystal, and Steve Martin are some of actors starring in mid-life crisis flicks

Balding men struggling to make sense of their lives — it’s not what you’d call natural movie-comedy material unless your name is Woody Allen. But this year the men who would be Woody are multiplying: The mid-life crisis is one hot premise. Women jokesters seem to be immune, but there are plenty of males who, having reached that uncertain age, recast their comedies in semi-earnest. The trend carries with it some danger. After all, Allen’s formula for soul- searching reached painful perfection 11 years ago in Stardust Memories, but his films keep returning to the theme. Will this year’s lost boys stare into the void forever? We can only sit by, helpless, and watch.

Woody Allen
Movie: Stardust Memories
Role: Sandy Bates, N.Y. film director with a Rolls-Royce limo
Crisis: Wants three women, only one of them sane. Also in search of God.
Depth of introspection: ”Down deep I’m not evil or anything, I’m just floundering…A huge, big, wet kiss would go a long way to selling this idea.”
Mentor: Extraterrestrials with New York accents
Elusive secret of life: ”These are the wrong questions.”

Albert Brooks
Movie: Defending Your Life
Role: Daniel Miller, divorced L.A. adman
Crisis: He’s lonely, his career’s going nowhere, and he’s temporarily dead.
Depth of introspection: ”Okay, look, I’m guilty. I didn’t make enough money. Call me a hippie, send me to hell, I give up.”
Mentor: A happily deceased Meryl Streep
Elusive secret of life: ”When you only use 3% of your brain, fear is pretty much all you think about.”

Steve Martin
Movie: L.A. Story
Role: Harris K. Telemacher, wackiest of TV weathermen
Crisis: Has two women he doesn’t want; wants a third he doesn’t have. Also loses job.
Depth of introspection: ”I’m a big dumb male…I could never be a woman ’cause I’d just stay home and play with my breasts all day.”
Mentor: Omniscient freeway sign
Elusive secret of life: ”Sing ‘Doo Wah Diddy.”’

Mel Brooks
Movie: Life Stinks
Role: Goddard Bolt, billionaire L.A. developer with a Rolls-Royce limo
Crisis: He’s living out on the street, first on a bet, then in ruin.
Depth of introspection: ”Can you believe that in the middle of all this filth two people can find some shred of happiness?”
Mentor: Lesley Ann Warren, dancer/bag lady
Elusive secret of life: It’s ”just a bunch of moments…Once in a while you steal a good one.”

Billy Crystal
Movie: City Slickers
Role: Mitch Robbins, ad salesman for N.Y. radio station
Crisis: Turns 39 and ”can’t find his smile.” Thinks about quitting his job. Joins cattle drive.
Depth of introspection: ”I’m losing hair where I want hair and getting hair where I don’t want hair.”
Mentor: Norman the baby steer
Elusive secret of life: Jack Palance’s index finger

City Slickers
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes