In a 7.11 article, Radar‘s Willa Paskin notes that the Robin Williams on view in License to Wed is “a shell of the comedian we once knew,” and re-states that Williams isn’t the “comic genius of his generation” that he was in the ’70s and ’80s. Quite so, and over the last 18 months or so Williams has gone downmarket. But at least he’s not doing sentimental slop or playing twitchy psychos.
After rising to fame as the sitcom alien Mork, Williams “thrilled audiences in the ’80s with spastic, mostly improvisational stand-up routines, culminating in his legendary 1987 performance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera house. But at some critical point Williams crossed over to the dark side.
“We suspect it happened sometime in the mid ’90s, when acclaim for his performance in Aladdin perhaps sent the wrong message and positively reinforced comedic stylings just shy of schizophrenia.” Wait a minute…mid ’90s? Aladdin came out in ’92.
Williams nearly sank himself with sentimental overkill in the mid to late ’90s. Starting with Francis Coppola‘s Jack in ’96, he performed in a series of tender, teary-eyed films — What Dreams May Come, Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man — that made some want to barf and others to reach for the nearest fire extinguisher.
Then Williams did the abrupt 180 into dark parts — One-Hour Photo, Death to Smoochy, Insomnia, The Night Listener.
Then came a brief blessed period in ’05 and ’06 — a funny bit in The Aristocrats and then a starring role in Barry Levinson‘s Man of the Year (’06), which wasn’t miraculous but seemed to some like Williams best part (and performance) since Good Will Hunting.
But right after this Williams shifted over to broad, rube-level comedy with RV, Night at the Museum and License to Wed, and in so doing invited the wrath of Willa Paskin and God knows how many thousands of others.