Road to Morocco

What you immediately notice about Bob Hope in Road to Morocco (1942) is how modern he is, still, six decades later. You could imagine him joining Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in Due Date, cracking wise from the back seat during their road trip and complaining about the masturbating dog. Not so his costar Bing Crosby, who seems stuck in the cool, crooner past. Nothing rattles the guy, unlike the cowardly Hope, and where’s the fun in that? In the first of three Road movies counting down to the GI’s annual revival of It’s a Wonderful Life (Dec. 10), our shipwrecked heroes sing “Road to Morocco” atop a camel as self-lampoon, essentially laying out the entire movie’s plot in advance. (Yes, they know they’ll meet Dorothy Lamour.) Surprise isn’t the point to the formula, which would eventually extend to seven pictures. Within the joke-song-joke framework, Hope engages with the camera as much as he does his two co-stars. (Today the equivalent casting would be Jack Black, Justin Long, and Mila Kunis, proof that we live in diminished times.) When, at journey’s end, they wash into New York Harbor, Hope begins his frantic “No food, no water!” speech in a last-minute bid for an Oscar, as he confesses to the audience. Would that the stars of today were so honest about their intentions. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Nov. 19-25, 7 & 9 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 20, 5 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 21, 5 p.m., 2010

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