the mainstream." Too wacky.
Sherlock Jr., playing May 15 at the Michigan Theatre as part of its "Family Friendly Film Series," is indeed wacky--maybe too wacky for some. It's the Keaton movie in which he plays a film projectionist who falls asleep on the job and dreams he has walked into the movie he's showing, taking on the protagonist's role of a famous detective. Woody Allen basically stole the idea sixty years later in The Purple Rose of Cairo, though reversing the fantasy, with Jeff Daniels walking off the screen and into Mia Farrow's life. Allen's not the only director to crib from Keaton, a master of comic inventiveness.
Sherlock Jr. is not the Keaton movie in which he is chased down a mountain by an avalanche of boulders (that's Seven Chances), or the one in which he escapes pursuers by jumping out a window and through a clothesline full of women's garments and emerges disguised as a female (that's Neighbor) or the one in which the wall of a house falls down on him but he survives by standing precisely where the window is (that's Steamboat Bill Jr.). It's possible to justify several films as Keaton's best (including The General, in which there's a classic extended chase with Keaton perched on a locomotive). In all of them, he does his own stunts, aided only by rudimentary (if any) special effects. There was virtually nothing the acrobatic, anarchic Keaton wouldn't attempt.