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In his comic acting and his comic cadenzas alike there are occasional blurs of mood and insight moments which are like being bonged over the head with a champagne bottle instead of savoring the vintage. But they do no serious harm ; they merely show that Danny Kaye is not yet a great comedian. The exciting thing about his work in Wonder Man, aside from the immediate pleasure it gives, is that it shows he may quite possibly become one.
Where Do We Go from Here? (20th Century-Fox) goes in so many directions, into so many grades and kinds of free-wheeling fooling, that it will please practically anybody some of the time and practically nobody all of the time. People who like first-rate finesse will enjoy bits of brisket from Kurt Weill's musical ribroast, the most teasing twists in Ira Gershwin's lyrics, and Alan Mowbray pretending to be Eric Blore pretending to be George Washington. People who like oafishly coy satire about on a par with summer-camp imitations of Gilbert & Sullivan will find stretches of that. Between these broad extremes, however, the show rumbles along Technicolorfully and, on the whole, quite amusingly, with some really bright spots and a lot of others so shamelessly silly that you enjoy them anyway.
The story: an unhappy 4-F (Fred Mac-Murray) is jilted by a toothsome, promiscuous USOgress (June Haver) who at tempts to demonstrate, by song and cumbrous dance routines, that morale means just One Thing to all men. The hero really loves the nice girl (Joan Leslie) who loves him, but he doesn't know it yet. He gets hold of a magic lamp in a scrap-salvage drive. The lamp breaks, and releases a gaily kosher genie (Gene Sheldon). The grateful genie gives him three wishes which rather confusingly turn out to be four or five.
The first lands him in the Army at Valley Forge. His schoolbook hindsight of the Delaware Crossing interests General Washington profoundly. Disguised as a yokel, he also checks up on the taffy-wigged, beet-nosed Hessians in the Trenton Bierstube. By the time he faces a Hessian firing squad, the genie suddenly transplants him spang into the middle of a mutiny against Christopher Columbus (Fortunio Bononova). For this episode Ira Gershwin has written the most trickily tanglefooted of his lyrics and Kurt Weill, assisted by Baritone Carlos Ramirez, has composed a raving parody of wopera. The mutiny ends happily when Columbus spots Cuba (Sloppy Joe's, complete with girls) through his spyglass.
The prophetic hero sails northward to buy wooded Manhattan Island from Indian Chieftain Badger (Anthony Quinn), originator of the Badger Game, for the customary price. Then he plunks forward a hundred years or so into the middle of Knickerbocker Holiday minus Peter Stuyvesant, again meets and at last appreciates Miss Leslie. She gets him talking hindside-to Dutch dialect so automatically that, jailed, he sings An Angel If I Had the Wings Of. When at length the genie gets control of his defective time machine, he restores the hero to the present, in the uniform he wanted all along.