Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles ProjectWhether you’ve heard of Don Rickles or not, chances are that the comedians you like were either directly affected by him or look up to him as a sort of comedic icon. Now, after more than 50 years in the industry, Don Rickles is receiving the royal treatment – in the form of a 2-disc documentary - by award-winning director John Landis.

Recounting Rickles’ life and career (from Florida to New York to Las Vegas to Los Angeles), Mr. Warmth features interviews with more stars than can be named in one review – Clint Eastwood, Robert DeNiro, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, and Robin Williams, to name a few. Interspersed with clips of Rickles’ performances (including a 2007 show in Las Vegas), these interviews attempt to highlight his life and accomplishments.

It’s a bit surprising then, with a director like John Landis and candid interviews from so many easily identifiable celebrities, that the film is a bit lacking in forward-moving energy. At times it feels as if we are repeating information we’ve already seen, or heading off-topic (an examination of the gangster-run casinos of Las Vegas is a primary example), but Rickles himself always serves to ground the film. In fact, it almost seems as if Landis had enough material to go on in Rickles himself, and might have overdone it with his large cast of interviewees.

It’s not that the interviews are drab or unimportant, but at times they almost pull focus rather than adding extra dimensions. Mr. Warmth doesn’t get any better than when we are watching Rickles live, whether in old stand-up acts, on TV (bits with Johnny Carson are incredible) and, most notably, in his 2007 stage show. To see Don Rickles working an auditorium and pulling the laughs while simultaneously ripping on every person in the crowd is a lesson in professional comedy.One of the key moments of the film (unfortunately edited out and only included in the extensive deleted scenes on disc 2) is Penn Jillette discussing Rickles’ dedication to his craft and his unwillingness to bend, even in his ’80s. This is the type of declaration that is otherwise missing in the edited version of the film.

Though the film won Official Selection at AFI Fest, New York Film Fest and Austin Film Festival, there’s just a little bit of pop and pizazz that could have been added to make the film an unmitigated success. It’s undoubtedly still an enjoyable watch and a historically relevant documentary, but you’ll find more entertainment in a Rickles stand-up routine.

Zach’s Rating: B-
Perfect For: Longtime fans of Don Rickles
Stay Away if: You’ve never heard of Rickles
Watch For: Clips of Rickles live in Las Vegas

To purchase Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, visit Amazon
For more reviews by Zach Freeman, visit HubPages

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