Since my son had never seen George Roy Hill's classic BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE
SUNDANCE KID from 1969, we decided to rent the DVD for viewing during the
Christmas season. Having not seen it myself in a couple of decades, I was
wondering how it would hold up. It lost the Oscar for best picture that
year to MIDNIGHT COWBOY, a film that I suspect most people will probably
agree hasn't aged nearly as well as BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID,
which is just as great today as it was when it was released.
I won't bother to repeat the well-known plot of Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman),
his Hole-in-the-Wall gang of robbers and Butch's sidekick, the Sundance Kid
(Robert Redford). We are told in the intro that most of the story is true.
The authentic sets of the turn of the last century, the vintage pictures and
many other parts of the movie make it feel like a real western but with an
entertainingly modern touch.
The two leads are eminently likable and possess great chemistry together.
Butch, the brains behind the group, avoids fighting whenever possible. As
taciturn as Butch is gregarious, the Sundance Kid smiles a lot but says
little. His fast guns make up for his slow words. Katharine Ross, as the
story's love interest, plays the long-legged and alluring Etta Place.
Hands-down for me, the best part of the movie is the "Raindrops Keep Fallin'
On My Head" musical sequence set on a bicycle. This is one of the best
musical numbers ever filmed. Watching it puts you into an instant romantic,
The movie must also be one of the most mimicked. Among many classic scenes
that we've seen again and again since are the knife fight, the jump off the
cliff and the final shoot out.
One of the most endearing parts of the two guys' characters is how
vulnerable they both are. "I couldn't do that," Butch tells the Sundance
Kid about a posse following them with a nearly inhuman tracking ability.
"Could you do that? Why can they do it? Who are those guys?"
"Who are those guys?" isn't something we have to ask ourselves about Newman
and Redford. They were great before 1969 and have become even better since
-- two of the world's acting treasures.
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID runs 1:50. It is rated PG for western
violence and sensuality and would be acceptable for kids around 8 and up.
Rated before there was a PG-13 rating, the movie would probably get it a
PG-13 today for its violence.
My son Jeffrey, age 12, gave it ***. He liked the characters, the shoot 'em
ups, the sepia tone sequences and the picture's authentic feel.
The movie is available on DVD and video tape. The best part of the DVD is a
mesmerizing documentary on the making of the movie.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes