The Family Jewels puts Jerry Lewis in multiple role of contenders for guardianship of moppet and her inherited fortune. Episodic script hits some highs in satire and low comedy. Players and direction are good, but film shapes up as comparatively mild entry.
The script focuses on precocious Donna Butterworth, cute nine-year-old orphan with $30 million in trust to be administered by the uncle whom she picks. Jay Adler and Neil Hamilton make okay lawyers who explain provisions of late pop’s will, triggering a visit to each uncle with family chauffeur Lewis.
Comic’s tour de farce effort comes off unevenly. As sympathetic but bumbling chauffeur, he foils a bank-truck holdup, avoids numerous murder attempts, and keeps plot thread together in good form. So-so bits include a San Diego ferryboat skipper, also cynical and unpatriotic circus clown quitting the biz for Swiss tax haven.
More successful is his limning of crazy photographer who can’t decide on setups. Standout is Lewis as screwy aviator who attempts to haul to Chi a group of five motorcycle-riding biddies. Very good satire on in-flight pix involves Anne Baxter appearing in film clip from Sustenance, a gag scene in which banquet guests, silverware and food slide about with aircraft motion.
Sebastian Cabot brightens as foil for Lewis’ detective-uncle who gets hung up in zany pool game with Robert Strauss, while gangster-uncle bit is amusing.