Wonderful Life (1964) starring Cliff Richard, Susan Hampshire, Melvyn Hayes, Richard O'Sullivan, Una Stubbs, Walter Slezak, Derek Bond, Joseph Cuby directed by Sidney J. Furie Movie Review

Wonderful Life (1964)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Susan Hampshire and Cliff Richard in Wonderful Life

It's not a Wonderful Life

Cliff Richard is often referred to as the British Elvis Presley and when it comes to their brief movie careers the similarities are even more visible. Presley starred in a lot of no brainer musicals which traded purely on his star power and Cliff Richard did the same with a "Wonderful Life" being a prime example of one. It is thin on the ground when it comes to storyline, even thinner when it comes to a script and the musical numbers are less than memorable leaving poor Cliff Richard central to making it entertaining. And credit where it is due as Cliff Richard gives an enthusiastic performance, at times seemingly dragging others along to try and make "Wonderful Life" entertaining, but in the end he doesn't succeed as out of Cliff Richard's few movies "Wonderful Life" is one of the least memorable and entertaining.

After blowing up a ships power supply, Johnnie (Cliff Richard - Summer Holiday) and his musical mates find themselves stranded in the Canaries with no money to get themselves back to Blighty. On the way to a banana picking plantation to find some work they stumble across a Lloyd Davis (Walter Slezak) movie production and find themselves employed in various roles. But the movie life isn't easy especially as they dislike the way that Davis barracks young starlet Jenny (Susan Hampshire - Living Free) and so set about boosting the beautiful Jenny's confidence by making their own version of Davis's movie under his nose.

Richard O'Sullivan, Melvyn Hayes and Cliff Richard in Wonderful Life

In many ways you don't expect a musical to have a brilliant storyline, it's all about the song and dance, but "Wonderful Life" comes up far too short when it comes to something which makes sense of the various musical scenes. Whilst we have the set up of this band of young men ending up in the movie industry and helping a young starlet it is by no means enough to fill a movie of 90 minutes let alone the 113 minutes which "Wonderful Life" runs for. It means that there is plenty of song and dance padding, musical montages which add nothing to the story but fill up several minutes of running length. In fact strip away some of the superfluous musical numbers and "Wonderful Life" would not have only been a better length but also a better movie.

But "Wonderful Life" is a musical and there are a lot of song and dance numbers which dominate the running time. Some of these various musical scenes are much better than others delivering entertainment through the music, the singing, dancing as well as a touch of humour. But whilst some are entertaining none are overly memorable and at times feels like the lyrics have been scrambled together and make little sense other than they rhyme. Of course some will enjoy these lively, bubbly musical numbers purely because Cliff Richard sings them but they are some of the weakest to appear in the few movies which Cliff Richard made.

Part of the trouble really is that whilst "Wonderful Life" tries to be funny the comedy ends up too daft, too false and often too weak. The humour may have worked back in the 60s when "Wonderful Life" was released but watching it nearly 50 years later and there are very few moments which actually make you smile. Even the charming innocence of it all fails to really entertain either making "Wonderful Life" seriously dated.

What all this means is that "Wonderful Life" feels like a movie quickly put together as a vehicle for Cliff Richard and the knock on effect of this is that it relies on Cliff to carry it. Credit where it's due and his enthusiasm and energy shines through as he tries to make some of the daft songs and comedy scenes work but it's not enough to save it. And it doesn't help that there is absolutely zero chemistry between him and love interest Jenny played by Susan Hampshire. For some reason Hampshire plays Jenny almost with an icy edge and it feels wrong.

Of course being a Cliff Richard movie means that various recognizable faces show up in supporting roles. There are The Shadows, Melvyn Hayes, Richard O'Sullivan and Una Stubbs all in supporting roles and to be frank they look lethargic, struggling to really get into the movie except when Cliff Richard infectious energy drags them to perform.

What this all boils down to is out of the few movies which Cliff Richard made "Wonderful Life" is one of the least entertaining. It just doesn't work thanks to a thin storyline, poor script and less than memorable musical numbers. It relies heavily on Cliff Richard to make it work and he does a very good job but everything about it is so weak even his energy and enthusiasm can't make it any better.

Tags: British Romantic Comedies