Plot: Lupo (Rodney Dangerfield) owns and operates an Italian restaurant, but his true passions are the opera…and women. He brings in some serious talent to perform for his guests, giving them an impressive take on dinner theater. The current star of his stage is Gina (Annabelle Gurwitch), a singer who treats Lupo like a dog, but he can’t help but be smitten with her. The worse she treats him, the more he falls for her, but she has no intent to ever give him a chance. In order to push him off, she says she can only be with a man who is a master opera singer, knowing Lupo has a terrible voice, but this doesn’t shake his confidence. He is driven to learn to sing like a champ, which Gina then uses to put together a scam in which Lupo thinks he is getting lessons from a master, but is really being taken for a ride. But can Lupo’s optimistic persona lead him to success in opera, or will he just be run into bankruptcy?
Entertainment Value: This was one of Rodney Dangerfield’s final movies and while it isn’t one of his best, his charm and humor still runs through The 4th Tenor. The narrative is a natural one for Dangerfield, as a hapless romantic who tries to turn his raspy, boorish voice into an operatic masterpiece. As you can imagine, seeing him in his usual role here, bumping elbows with high culture, is quite fun at times and Dangerfield is able to make the material work better it should. The script is by no means sharp or all that original, but it trades on Dangerfield’s strengths and just kind of lets him loose, which was a wise approach. I also appreciated the odd, mystical element involved, with the magical wine and I think it adds a cartoon inspired vibe, which again helps the mostly thin material. Not all of the humor works and the movie is a touch slow at times, but it is better than you might think and thanks to Dangerfield, the movie has a sweetness and charm throughout. In the end, fans of Dangerfield will appreciate his performance, even if the movie isn’t his finest hour.
The main draw is Dangerfield of course, but the cast has a few other bright spots, such as Robert Davi in a scene chewing role. Davi camps up his performance and is fun to watch, assuming you appreciate ham handed work. Annabelle Gurwitch is Dangerfield’s first love interest and she also leans on camp, dialing up the bitchiness and melodrama to add some humor. She nails the role in my opinion, as we can see why Dangerfield would like her, but we also want to see terrible things happen to her. The cast also includes Dom Irrera, Charles Fleischer, and Anita De Simone in prominent roles, but even smaller, supporting characters have some memorable moments. Dangerfield is able to play off the cast quite well and as always, pull some humor out of even the driest lines, which happens often here. I wish the material was a little more lively and sharp, as the cast seems game to make it work. Even though The 4th Tenor is no classic, it is fun to watch Dangerfield in action and he delivers his usual persona and laughs, making the best of the mediocre script.