Jack Albany (Dick Van Dyke) is an actor who likes to think he is capable of great things, dreaming of gaining more acclaim than he already has for his Shakespeare performances but actually typecast on television as a gangster in a production line of crime dramas and thrillers. What he wouldn't give to prove his mettle on a major stage, but this eludes him, no matter his ego telling him that he is more than ready. However, tonight as he leaves the studio, he becomes aware he is being followed, and as his nerves begin to show, the man confronts him: he is Florian (Tony Bill), a genuine gangster who has been assigned to pick up this hitman and take him to his boss (Edward G. Robinson).
Yes, it was mistaken identity time again, some of the best around used that plot, though so did some of the not-so-great, and Never a Dull Moment tended towards the latter despite expert playing by Van Dyke, here at the peak of his nineteen-sixties fame (and powers). Understandably when his other major Disney movie was Mary Poppins, this little item is often forgotten about in his career, but it existed as proof that after his huge success on television sitcom land launched him as a star, he also took the lead in this family-friendly comedy, though the further it went on the more you would consider it had been manufactured to appeal to the dads in the audience.
Rather than the kids, their dads might have sat down with them on a trip to the movies and spent the whole picture thinking to themselves, wait a minute, isn't that... and he's whatsisname... I recognise him! If it failed as a ripsnorting laugh generator, at the very least this succeeded to give a collection of character actors best known for their roles as criminals much-needed work; they must have thought this was going to be high profile from the House of Mouse brand, as if nothing else Walt liked to give faded talents another chance when it came to appearing in his productions, and though he had passed away the previous year, the studio was continuing that laudable tradition.
This meant Never a Dull Moment featured Edward G. Robinson, as Leo Joseph Smooth, in his final gangster part; those characters had made him rich and famous, so in this there was a neat sense of waving farewell to the types who had been so good to him professionally. He was also given the opportunity to indulge his love of art, as Smooth is obsessed with the idea that he could in his retirement become a great artist in his old age, all he needs is practice and a little guidance (from tutor Dorothy Provine). But there's something else he desires in that area, a large mural of a painting that does not look too dissimilar to a Van Gogh, Sunflowers for example, only it's around twenty feet long and belongs on the wall of a gallery, not on the wall of a criminal's stash of treasures at his mansion.
Said mansion purchased with his ill-gotten gains, no doubt. As if Van Dyke pitting his wits against Robinson was not enough to lure in vintage film fans, how about the cast in support, who included among them a bunch of decidedly non-Disney audience-friendly performers as Henry Silva (soon to be cornering the market in Italian gangster thrillers), Jack Elam (who seemed to use this as his cue to concentrate on comedy afterwards), Slim Pickens (a rare non-Western outing), Mickey Shaughnessy (no stranger to humour - but as a butler?!) and so forth. If this barely raised a titter thanks to a curious reliance on supposedly amusing situations instead of the witty lines it sorely needed, then the interplay from this list of performers did conjure up some interest that was not quite overwhelmed by the overlit sets and obvious screenplay. Although it seems it was frequently about to turn into an update of Robinson's black comedy favourite A Slight Case of Murder, nobody died here, though it could have done with an edge to make it stand out. Music by Robert F. Brunner.