In 1995, it was promising to hear that Mel Brooks was creating "the companion piece to Young Frankenstein." He had also brought in the heavyweight of deadpan--Leslie Nielsen. As Lt. Frank Drebin in the Police Squad movies, Nielsen has no peer for silly stuff--just the player Brooks would seem to need for a strong movie, as any fan of Brooks perpetually hopes a new film may rekindle his madcap magic. Alas, the end results in Dracula: Dead and Loving It include a sprinkling of amusements and one big belly laugh. Brooks and his writers use a very tight adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, but the spoofs can be spelled out as we go, as if they are paint-by-number. Some are jabs at Coppola's version of Dracula, but most are attached to classic Dracula films. If any real pleasure comes from the movie it's thanks to the efforts of the cast. Peter MacNicol plays the crazed Renfield to the letter, Steven Weber has a good time as the tight British Harkin, and Lysette Anthony charms as the doomed Lucy. Brooks and Nielsen ham it up just fine. There's even a surprisingly controlled performance by Harvey Korman (a character spoofing Anthony Hopkins's role in the misfire The Road to Wellville). As with Brooks's period comedies, the film looks better than it needs to and includes a few tricky special effects for good measure. This has nothing to do with the audience laughing--we need bigger jokes. And when you double over laughing in one scene--involving a stake through the heart and a bucket of blood--you want the movie to achieve Brooks's days of glory, when hearty laughter was the norm, not an isolated moment. --Doug Thomas
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