More Than Friends (1978) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for some sexuality
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Rob Reiner, Penny Marshall, Joe Pantoliano, Howard Hesseman, Michael McKean, Dabney Coleman, Kim Delgado (cameo)
Director: Jim Burrows
Screenplay: Phil Mishkin, Rob Reiner
Review published May 19, 2005
Over ten years before Rob Reiner ("All in the Family", This is Spinal Tap) would direct the great romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally, he wrote this very similar piece for ABC television, which featured a very similar premise of two best friends of the opposite sex that develop feelings for one another, but are unsure whether or not they should stay friends or take it a step beyond. Reiner based the screenplay on real-life events that occurred between himself and co-star (and at that time, wife) Penny Marshall ("Laverne and Shirley"), and the chemistry between the two of them marks perhaps the best work for either of them in anything they've done before or since. Reiner is charming, Marshall endearing, and while most probably have never heard of it, it is definitely worth seeking out for fans who like awkward friendship films in the Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally vein.
The setting is from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Reiner and Marshall star as Alan and Matty, two friends growing up together in the Bronx. They never saw each other as anything more than friends until they decided to lose their virginity together, and from then on, things became uncertain as to where their relationship stood. While the two think about getting together for good, Matty has aspirations to move out to Hollywood to become an actress, while Alan wants to stay in the area and be a writer. The relationship is on-again, off-again, with both finding new lovers, but can anybody ever match up with one's best friend?
More Than Friends is a touching, funny, cute and very charming romantic comedy full of memorable moments and terrific performances. Although it is a film made for television, the production value is quite good, with terrific use of New York locales, and a spot-on recreation of the look and feel of each era. A terrific supporting cast also helps, with solid roles going to a young Joe Pantoliano (Midnight Run, El Diablo) in his first sizable role, Dabney Coleman (Melvin and Howard, Nine to Five), Howard Hesseman (Police Academy 2, Flight of the Navigator) and a scene-stealing song performed by "Laverne and Shirley" co-star Michael McKean (The Guru, A Mighty Wind).
Directed by Jim Burrows (Partners), who also directed episodes of "Laverne and Shirley" with Penny Marshall, this is a small television movie that has more wit, charm and grace than most romantic comedies made today. Sadly, and quite ironically, Reiner and Marshall would split shortly after this aired on television.
©2005 Vince Leo