Catch 22 stumbles its way through distended burlesque, and contrived stylism to its ultimate root theme: antisocial nihilism.
Alan Arkin heads a large cast of familiar names, playing characters scooped from Joseph Heller’s famed novel by adapter Buck Henry. Low, cheap comedy mingles nervously with slick, high-fashion technical polish in a slow-boiling stew of specious philosophy and superficial characterization.
A technical filmmaking brilliance plus a few effective low-comedy gags constitute the pic’s assets. Its major liabilities are the script and the directorial concept.
Arkin is Capt Yossarian, the generally reactive character who perceives all the sham and hypocrisy around him; befuddled laundry officer Bob Newhart, elevated to bewildering status as a squadron leader; urbane operations officer Richard Benjamin; simpering medic Jack Gilford; hard-boiled, sex-teasing nurse Paula Prentiss; and Norman Fell, as the good-ole-sarge type.