Figure a combination of You Can’t Take It with You and elements of Tobacco Road, and it is a pretty fair indication of what The Mating Game is about and how the jokes are played. This romantic farce is as broad as its CinemaScope projection.
The production is based on H. E. Bates’ English novel, The Darling Buds of May, a light, farcical tilt at the welfare state in Britain. Adapted for the screen, it becomes an American situation chiefly involving free enterprise versus the internal revenue department.
Tony Randall plays a tax agent assigned to investigate the Maryland farm family headed by Paul Douglas and Una Merkel. Douglas gets Randall predictably drunk, and Randall is predictably smitten with one of the Douglas-Merkel offspring, hoydenish Debbie Reynolds. She is a toothsome child of nature who is taking care of the mating of the farm stock when she isn’t wrestling in the hay with some of the livelier neighbor boys.
Most of this is foreseeable farce, and much of it is done with allusions to sex, regarding both humans and animals. Reynolds is very good. Randall, somewhat uncomfortable as a straight actor, is brilliant in his comedy scenes, particularly an athletic drunk sequence and its aftermath.