Jack Nicholson in Goin' South (1978)

The Humour Went South

Henry Lloyd Moon (Jack Nicholson) is a wanted man, unfortunately it is the law who wants him and they end up capturing him as he tries to make it South to Mexico. But Henry is in luck as whilst he is facing the gallows he ends up being held in a town where since the Civil War there has been a shortage of men and as such if a woman picks him and says she will marry him he will be spared the noose. Fortunately for Henry Julia Tate (Mary Steenburgen) comes forwards and claims him as a husband, except she isn't interested in having a man in her life, just someone to work the mine on her land.

About 20 minutes into "Goin' South" I realised I had watched the movie before, many years ago when the thought of reviewing movies for a living hadn't even crossed my mind. The point I realised that I had watched this before was when an old woman says she will marry Henry to save him from the gallows but when he exuberantly hugs her she keels over and dies. It is a joke which sounds funnier that it is on screen because unfortunately Jack Nicholson as director does not have the same comedic touches as Mel Brooks. I mention Mel Brooks because I reckon if he had used that gag in "Blazing Saddles" it would have worked, in fact I reckon if Mel Brooks had directed this it would be a classic.

Mary Steenburgen in Goin' South (1978)

Part of the problem with "Goin' South" is that it doesn't have a great deal of story and what it has feels far too drawn out especially with it trying to be amusing. Much of that comes from the evolving relationship as on one hand you have Julia being cold to Henry and Henry being a womanizer but as I said there isn't enough writing in this to make it work. And unfortunately most of the gags which are thrown at the movie end up falling short of getting te laughs the writers thought they would with often there being a lack of chemistry between the stars to make the jokes work.

But that is where "Goin' South" actually works as it does have plenty of famous faces with the likes of Jack Nicholson, Mary Steenburgen, Christopher Lloyd and John Belushi all pulling funny faces as often as they can. But with so much of the comedy failing to work it often feels like a waste of talent especially when it comes to John Belushi who seems to be there in body rather than anything else.

What this all boils down to is that "Goin' South" just didn't deliver the humour I was expecting and ended up feeling like whilst there were some famous faces there was not enough story or writing for them to really get there teeth into.