Funny Bones

Director: Peter Chelsom
Screenwriters: Peter Chelsom, Peter Flannery

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


From the English director of Hear My Song comes an extravagantly outrageous comedy, which manages to combine the story of a struggling second-generation comedian with a tale of smuggling, madcap vaudeville and circus performing, and a personal voyage of discovery in a very compelling and unique exploration of the essence of comedy. Oliver Platt stars as the scion of one of America’s comic geniuses, played by Jerry Lewis in a wonderfully self-referential preformance. After flopping miserably on the Las Vegas stage, Platt returns to Blackpool, England, to try and discover the secrets of the performers and clowns who enjoyed tremendous popular success in earlier years. Ostensibly searching for talent, although it seems clear he’s really out to steal their acts, Platt discovers a multigenerational group of clowns, particularly an extraordinarily talented slapstick artist who has been off the stage for mysterious reasons. As his search for comic inspiration goes deeper, he unintentionally makes some startling discoveries about his family’s past and even the truth of his father’s success.

Rich and complexly constructed, Funny Bones is genuinely marvelous, with scene after scene of startling freshness and surprise. As a film which is itself comedic and also searching for and displaying comic invention and even theorizing about its nature, Funny Bones involves engrossing, multilayered storytelling. Director Peter Chelsom once again displays his dexterity and intelligence, combined with captivating style and timing. His nostalgic feel for the creativity of the past is beautifully captured, and the film’s romantic and dramatic resolution will leave audiences enthralled.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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