Lunch: Film Review

Lunch Documentary Still - H 2012

Lunch Documentary Still - H 2012

Donna Kanter's affectionate documentary is a nostalgic treat for lovers of the golden age of television comedy.

Donna Kanter's fly-on-the-wall portrait of the bi-weekly lunches features an aged group of film and television comedy veterans including Carl Reiner.

Featuring generous doses of ham served on wry, Lunch is an engaging, fly-on-the-wall portrait of the bi-weekly meals shared for decades by an aged group of television and comedy veterans at an ever-shifting series of accommodating delicatessens. Directed by Donna Kanter, whose late father Hal Kanter was one of the group’s longstanding participants, this affectionate, low-key documentary will best be appreciated by older audiences nostalgic for the golden age of television comedy.

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It’s a pleasure once again making the acquaintance of such legends as Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar, as well as such writer/producer/director/performers as, among others, Matty Simmons (producer of National Lampoon’s Animal House, among many other films); director Arthur Hiller (Love Story, The Hospital, Silver Streak), game show host Monty Hall (Let’s Make a Deal) and Gary Owens, the voice of Laugh-In, whose stentorian tones remain undiminished.

Although not exactly the Algonquin Round Table, the affable group kibitzes about their careers, aging and death with the sharp comic timing of seasoned vaudevillians. Interspersed with the group scenes are separate interviews with the participants, which range from the fascinating (the late Arthur Marx’s recollections of growing up with his father, Groucho) to the fairly mundane (Hiller commenting about how he was constantly confused with playwright Arthur Miller).

The biographical snippets also include generous clips from the members’ extensive credits, including Your Show of Shows, Mister Ed, and most fascinatingly, Reiner’s failed TV pilot Man of the House that would later morph into The Dick Van Dyke Show.  

In between heaping portions of matzo ball soup, brisket and cheeseburgers—Factor’s Famous Deli, where the film was mostly shot, is apparently not strictly kosher—the group largely consisting of octogenarians banter with an affectionate fondness that makes the viewer wish for an invitation to join them. But failing that, Lunch is the next best thing to being there.

Production company: The Kanter Company

Cast: Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Arthur Hiller, Monty Hall, Arthur Marx, Rocky Kalish, Ben Starr, John Rappoport, Hal Kanter

Director/screenwriter/producer: Donna Kanter

Director of photography: Nausheen Dadabhoy

Editor: Michael Meehan

Not rated, 78 min